State of Exception, The Undocumented Migrants Project on view at Parsons School of Design

Installation of backpacks left behind by unauthorized border crossers along the U.S. – Mexico border (2012)

The installation, State of Exception/Estado de Excepcion currently on view at The Parsons School of Design, brings to life the difficult journey undocumented migrants face in their quest for freedom. This complex topic has been part of an ongoing study at The Institute for the Humanities at the University of Michigan, where researchers have collected clothing, photographs, videos and interviews in an effort to remove the migrants from our nightly news segments, and bring each one of them into our lives, by way of personal artifacts and bits of clothing left behind. The installation has built its own wall – a wall made up of hundreds of backpacks, worn and weathered, owned by migrants crossing the Arizona desert.

The images below were taken with cell phones, disposable film, or cheap digital cameras. The photographs were taken by Central American and Mexican migrants crossing Mexico and the Sonoran Desert of Arizona between the years 2009 and 2016, and offer a glimpse into the crossing experience, which in many cases resulted in death.

The Undocumented Migration Project, based at the University of Michigan, was created by artist/photographer Richard Barnes and artist/curator Amanda Krugliak in collaboration with anthropologist, Jason DeLeon, with video images created by Richard Barnes – on location along the Mexico-United States border. In addition, the installation includes excerpts of original recordings of audio interviews with migrants.

Tires used by U.S. Border Patrol to clear the ground and make desert footprints more visible

State of Exception/Estado de Excepcion will be on view through April 17 at The Parsons School of Design, 2 West 13th Street. You can read more on the subject in Jason DeLeon’s book The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail.