Border Film Project: Proyecto fronterizo fotográfico

Border Film Project: Proyecto fronterizo fotográfico

Location: Scottsdale, Arizona

Year Completed: September 16, 2006 - January 18, 2007

Client: Commissioned by the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art for the exhibition

Installation by Ibarra Rosano Design Architects


Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art: SMoCA, commissioned Ibarra Rosano Design Architects to design the installation of the Border Film Project - an eye opening view into the realities of the US/Mexico border.

Our solution was a contemplative, metaphorical space erected to intersect museum visitors with the lives and experiences of migrants and Minutemen by way of their snapshot photos, their words and documentary film footage. 

The Border Film Project is a collaborative of three friends, Brett Honeycutt, Victoria Criado, and Rudy Adler, who spent a summer on the U.S.-Mexico border filming and distributing over 400 disposable cameras to two groups on different sides of the line: undocumented migrants crossing through the desert and Minutemen volunteers trying to stop them.  Members from the two groups documented their experiences through snapshots and mailed the cameras back to the Border Film Project in the posted envelope provided to them. 

The project is about the human condition, not political rhetoric.  It is intended to capture the humanity present on both sides, and offer a non-partisan and inclusive view of the border. 

Ibarra Rosano Design Architects designed the museum installation with varying contrasts in ambiance, in order to evoke a contemplative state within the viewer.  The intent is to encourage people to leave their preconceptions at the door, and allow the exhibit to shed light on topics not covered by the agenda driven media. The main concept of the installation is based on the literal and metaphoric presence of shadows, connected to the border and illegal immigration. 

Literally, the concept represents the cover of moonlight that cloaks the footsteps of men and women that step blindly, into those shadows in search of a better life. It’s also about those who choose to sit in those same shadows, to shed light on the symptom of a growing problem. Symbolically, it represents the shadows of society, where migrants enter and try to live their lives - living in the shadows of a great nation –a powerful force. It is about the shadow cast by ignorance and fear, on both sides, that shrouds the truth. The large gallery space is radically altered to create a journey through three concentric, rectangular spaces.

 1) The outermost atmosphere is dark and uncomfortable. The direction is not clear and neither is the motive. Two low frequency dissonant tones thicken the tension of the space. Forebodingly, a dark floating volume sits out of square, twisting away to conceal the entrances to the light that spills out from under the floating dark walls, casting shadows of bodies moving along the floor.

2) Once inside, the space is bright, the once shadowy figures are revealed to be fellow museum patrons. The photographs are displayed and in this space a third tone melds with the other two and dissonance is partially resolved.

 3) The third innermost space is a tall narrow passage, like a beacon or a lantern. It is a projection room where the border participants are presented, sharing their human needs and trials, in a brief film documentary. 

The walls are painted a very dark brown and on them, quotes are hand lettered. They are the unheard voices of both Minutemen and migrants side by side, in contrast or in agreement, in both English and Spanish.