Richard Misrach – The border wall as you’ve never seen (and heard) it –
May 13, 2020 / 4 minutes of reading
When a writer or a composer creates a piece to tell a story, the imagination of the audience runs wild; people start envisioning the heroines and the villains and how they affect their attitudes and perceptions. The same applies to audiences when they view a piece of art or photograph for the first time; they create mental images and form opinions on what a piece means.
Collaboration of photographer Richard Misrach & sculptor Guillermo Galindo
When artists combine two art forms, music and art, to create a piece, the result is nothing short of masterful. Photographer Richard Misrach and sculptor Guillermo Galindo, a joined force to come up with Border Cantos, an art project accompanied by its own special sound and music.
Highlighted issues & concerns
The pair worked together to create an exhibition, as well as a book that features images from the U.S.-Mexico border. The purpose of the exhibition was to highlight the serious humanitarian issue and geographical concerns associated with the contentious border. Rampant border politics have plagued the border for years, which has affected the people living in the surrounding areas and it has also affected the geography in general.
The combination of photos with sound
The collaboration built on Misrach’s photographic exploration of the West and Galindo’s sound, which was created from instruments that were fashioned out of an assortment of objects that migrants had left behind. The photographs captured played off the music created and separately but together, the exhibition managed to send the message of desolation and the sacrifice faced by the scores and scores of people that try to cross the wall each day.
About Richard Misrach’s border photos
Misrach’s images of the wall portray the protruding separation between the two sides of the wall. The images also expose the harsh realities of the journey to the wall and the entry to the other side. From one side of the wall, an individual has to undergo hardships whereby they have to cross the mountains and the harsh desert to get to the other side.
The struggles of migrants
Before leaving one side for another, the individual has to shed important layers of themselves and leave essential things behind in order to survive the harsh realities waiting on the other side. The struggle of the journey is represented symbolically through Misrach’s photography of things and objects such as tires, old chains and discarded items that have been left behind.
As Misrach did the photography work, Galindo perceptively used Misrach’s images and the objects he had collected to create a musical language that would pass across the message effectively, creating a new line and form of expression. The exhibition features a total of 44 photographs and 18 instruments created by Galindo.
Video: Richard Misrach about Border Cantos
Photos by Richard Misrach
Works by Guillermo Galindo
Guillermo Galindo – Cucarachas | Cockroaches, 3 min 31 sec
“Cockroaches” is a derogatory term commonly used by anti-immigrant groups to refer to immigrants. This piece of music uses the sonic texture of toy cucarachas rumbling in the upper board of the Huesocordio, a zither with bone bridges based on the Japanese koto. This drone opens a musical dialogue between a percussive riff, agile string pizzicatos, and the cry of carefully tuned bottles found along the border.
Guillermo Galindo – Tonk, 30 sec
This plastic trumpet, fashioned out of a Border Patrol flashlight, refers to the derogatory name some Border agents call migrants: “tonk” is the sound a flashlight would make when hitting someone’s skull.
Guillermo Galindo – Paisaje Sonoro, 20sec
Based on Richard’s photograph, this soundscape involves mountains made of resonating hollow wood reminiscent of the Aztec percussion instrument teponaztli. The rusted nails, suggestive of the Border Wall, can be plucked or stroked, and the valley floor is covered with the pages of a Bible inscribed to a girl, found on the Texas border.
Guillermo Galindo – Dr. Zhivago habla, 1min 10sec
A letterpress, leather-bound Spanish edition of the Russian novel was recovered by the San Diego/Tijuana Wall. The sound installation brings together the book, the photograph of where it was found, and a recording of the book being read, suggesting a universal link between migration and political strife.
Guillermo Galindo – Flauta de paniagua, 30sec
Derived from the Greek pan flute and the Andean quena, this is a wind instrument made up of five plastic bottles whose independent pitch can be changed by adding water.
Guillermo Galindo – Tortilláfono, 29sec
The discarded metal cap of an electrical box from the failed SBInet (Secure Border Initiative) surveillance program was turned into a mallet and string instrument.
All images by Richard Misrach unless otherwise noted.