Imagine hiking across the lone desert with the sun beating down on you. You wipe your brow and taste the salty dry sweat on your brow. Your heart keeps tempo while you try to stay focused on the trail ahead. Suddenly, memories come rushing through your head. You remember the distant past like it had just happened. But the blisters on your toes bring you back to the desert. Then there are fleeting memories of how you got deported the last time. How the marriage didn’t work out and you couldn’t prove it. They didn’t want to hear your story. Instead they put you on a southbound bus to Yuma. You are an immigrant en route to El Norte in search of a better life. Carol Flax and Trebor Scholtz’s web artwork entitled, “Tuesday Afternoon” puts you in the shoes of the person who is willing to risk everything including their life to reach the United States.
The user interface consists of hypertext links that are snippets of memories. They slowly reveal themselves as you click from one text string to the next. A looping video of a path leading into the desert plays non-stop. Cutting sharply down the center is a jagged red line. Perhaps this is an aerial view of a barrier like object. Throughout the experience a looping audio track plays the sound of crackling wind over footsteps.
“Tuesday Afternoon” was produced in 2002 during a period in Arizona know as the Decade of Death. It happened exactly one year after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. 1,755 people died along the border between the years 1999-2009. Brady McCombs with the Arizona Daily Star reported, “This finding backs what many experts have been saying for years: the massive buildup of agents, fences and technology along Arizona’s border has pushed illegal border crossers into ever-more-remote terrain, making their trek more dangerous.” Perhaps that is why Flax and Scholtz chose to introduce their web-based project with this simple statement:
“The right to navigate one’s own geography
is not shared by the migrant or the refugee.
The borders or frontiers, which capital
crosses with ease are insurmountable for
the poor or the dispossessed.”
In another text string a former East German border guard questions the validity of the U.S./Mexican border. “Having been a border guard as part of my compulsory army service, I wonder what makes a person voluntarily become a member of the border patrol on this so very different border.” As users we can take these statements at face value or think about what they actually mean. What makes it so “different”? Why has Arizona taken a tough stance against illegal immigrants? This anti-immigrant sentiment is spreading to southern states like Alabama where a new immigration law allows police to detain suspected illegal immigrants. “Since a federal judge upheld much of the law in September of 2011, many frightened Hispanics have been driven away from Alabama, fearing they could be arrested or targeted by police. Construction workers, landscapers and field hands have stopped showing up for work, and large numbers of Hispanic students have been absent from public schools.” Reported The Guardian newspaper.
There is no resolution in Flax and Scholtz’s “Tuesday Afternoon.” The immigration issue remains unresolved in 2012 as we enter an election year. The deaths due to dehydration, over exposure, drug cartel violence and inhumane conditions continue. The cost of building a “contiguous border fence could total $50 billion.” At some point the citizens of the U.S. need to ask ourselves is this really money well spent? As long as there is a promise of a better future, a connection to their roots people will continue to risk their lives to cross the desert into the U.S. and perhaps that’s what makes the concept behind “Tuesday Afternoon” so strong. It get’s us out of our comfort zone and into the mind of the person we occasional read about in the newspaper.
“How to Build a Deadly Electric Border Fence.” Mother Jones. Web. 20 Feb. 2012. http://motherjones.com/politics/2011/10/herman-cain-border-electric-fence
“Html : A Decade of Death.” Arizona Daily Star. Web. 20 Feb. 2012. http://azstarnet.com/news/local/border/771fd20e-aaf7-11df-870f-001cc4c002e0.html
“Appeals Court: Alabama Police Can Detain Suspected Illegal Immigrants.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 14 Oct. 2011. Web. 20 Feb. 2012.