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Few borders have been so historically and politically contentious as that which divides the United States of America from the Estados Unidos Mexicanos. The subject of much political tension and discussion, most notably including comments from Donald Trump about building a dividing wall along the Rio Grande (endorsed officially by the Republican Party). While they may seem comically satirical, they are actually all too real and not all that funny. In light of this, and in partnership with American photographer David Taylor, Tijuana artist Marcos Ramirez (known as ERRE) mapped out the ‘true’ US-Mexico border in his project ‘DeLIMITations’.
ERRE and Taylor began this border-marking project in mid-2014, crossing from Tijuana and driving north east to a final destination of Crissey Field State Park, Oregon. It was there that they illegally installed and photographed the first of their so-called border obelisks. These 6-foot tall pillars were placed over a total distance of 3721 miles, along the entire length of the ‘true’ US-Mexico border as established in the 1821 Treaty of Adams-Onís. The ultimate loss of this Mexican territory to the US – despite the claim in the aforementioned treaty that the US renounced the lands forever – occurred during the Mexican-American War (1846-48).
Located in various different locations – from a Shoshone-Paiute reservation, to a back garden in Wyoming and private land in the heavily Latino town of Dodge City – the obelisks were mostly welcomed. In total, the ‘DeLIMITations’ project includes a total of 47 lightweight, steel obelisks which spread throughout Oregon, Wyoming, Kansas, Oklahoma and then some. Many people, including Taylor himself, are surprised at the extent to which the previous border eats into what is now US territory. Most people are aware that California, New Mexico and Texas were once Mexican (not least because of the enduring Mexican culture that pervades and defines these areas), but other states come as much more of a shock. As the artists themselves concur, this project is about showing the true border history of these neighboring countries, as well as the tenuous, man-made nature of a border which then somehow comes to define culture, nationality and law.
Both ERRE and Taylor are well known for their interest in border issues. Much of ERRE’s vast back catalogue of sculptures and installations deals with the border concerns that dominate the rhetoric in his native country and he himself states his interest in geopolitics and the culture clash between first-world US and third-world Mexico. Meanwhile David Taylor has had somewhat of an obsession for photographing the historic divide between the two nations since 2007. However, it’s arguably their partnership on this project (funded by institutions on both sides of the border, including the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and the museum of the Autonomous University of Baja California, Mexicali) that has brought them the most attention recently.