On July 15th, 2011, 667 people from 28 different countries participated in the online networked performance Border Haunt that targeted the U.S.-Mexico border. Participants collected entries from a database that holds the biographical information of migrants that died while crossing the border and then sent those entries to a database used to monitor and police the border. As a result, the territory was conceptually and symbolically haunted for the duration of the one-day action as the border police received over 1,000 reports of deceased migrants attempting to cross.
Border Haunt was an artistic and political experiment that operated as an intervention against the surveillance and policing structures of the U.S.-Mexico border while also prefiguring solidarities and resonances among the participants.
Reporter Byard Duncan described the project this way:
“The reports and news stories and interactive maps abound — they are all just a click away. And yet, there’s also an inherent (and, for many families, painful) anonymity to border crossing deaths: extreme weather conditions, coupled with the remoteness of some attempted routes, makes finding bodies a difficult task for authorities; moreover, border crossers are generally encouraged by their fixers not to carry identification; and, in some cases, smugglers go as far as to forge Mexican IDs for their subjects. So while data about border crossings may be plentiful, important elements are perpetually lacking. This intersection of conspicuousness and anonymity is what inspired Paul to create “Border Haunt”. ‘The deaths over the past couple of decades have been consistently increasing,’ Paul said. ‘It seemed like a good moment to make this intervention and see what happens.”
Press Coverage of the Border Haunt project can be found here:
“Deadly Conditions for Mexico-US Migrants” (Al Jazeera English).