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Estamos Buscando A – Border Wall Installation

Museum of Contemporary Art – Tucson, Tucson, Arizona

October 7 – December 31, 2017

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“The most dramatic of the exhibitions, Estamos Buscando A (We Are Looking For) by Paul Turounet, an artist celebrated for his haunting photos of migrants, is a giant installation occupying the massive Great Hall. It’s nothing less than a re-creation of our militarized border.

A salvaged slice of actual border wall zooms 64 feet from one end of the gallery to the other, dividing the space into the U.S. on the north, and Mexico on the south. The wall is about 12 feet high, a mere fraction of the height of the president’s proposed new wall, and it’s planted on 3,000 square feet of dirt covering the gallery floor.

The northern side of the structure is forbidding and authoritarian. Based on Trump’s design protocols, it “foretells the future of isolation and detached nationalism,” Turounet says. The wall is an impassible stretch of pale metal. Nine “Keep Off” signs are painted on a curb; another sign warns of a “high intensity enforcement area.” What seems to be a door in the wall is really a wire cage. There are no humans to be seen.

In contrast, the Mexican side teems with signs of life. Desert cacti have been planted in mounds of dirt. Evidence of the travelers is everywhere. Turounet has collected migrant discards and scattered them in the dust: a woman’s gray sandal, camouflage pants, a rotting blanket, a hoodie emblazoned with the words “Union Made.”

The faces of people who might have left these things behind are fixed to a corrugated metal wall (ironically, another real-life discard, tossed out by the Border Patrol when a new wall went up a decade ago). Turounet has printed the travelers’ weary faces in sepia on shiny aluminum, making them gleam like retablos, the Mexican folk paintings on tin that record miracles. But these gorgeously made pieces don’t show any rescuing saints: instead they grieve for the wretched of the earth.

In one heartbreaking photo, a confused small girl rides in a truck crowded with migrants; she looks at the photographer, trying to puzzle out what’s going on. Many of the photos portray exhausted men at makeshift camps they’ve constructed by the wall, complete with bedrolls and grills for cooking. One man lies prone on a pillow, barely able to open his eyes; it’s an image that seems to foretell his death.

And a flower-laden shrine, so common on the migrant trail, is mourning a life already lost: propped against the wall are family photos of a smiling man, first as a groom with his bride in happier times, and then as a father with his young son.”

 

– Margaret Regan, Tragic Landscapes, Tucson Weekly

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Leave Us Your Pulses Of Rage

from the series, Somewhere Out There, Something Is Happening

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Grossmont College Art Faculty Exhibition

Hyde Art Gallery, El Cajon, California

October 17 – November 7, 2017

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Outstretched In Supplication

from the series, Somewhere Out There, Something Is Happening

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Weather on Steroids: the Art of Climate Change Science

Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, California

October 24, 2017 – February 28, 2018

Photograph courtesy of Stacy Keck

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