On July 15th, 2011, 667 people from 28 different countries participated in the online collective action “Border Haunt” that targeted the U.S.-Mexico border. Participants collected entries from a database that holds the names and descriptions of migrants that died trying to cross the border territory and then sent those entries into a database used to monitor and police the border. As a result, the border 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 the border.
“Border Haunt” was an artistic and political experiment that operated as an intervention against the current structures and policies which govern 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.”
The action was conceptualized as a kind of collective online performance and intervention which reflected on border crossing deaths as well as interrupted the surveillance technologies used in the border territory.
Press Coverage of the Border Haunt project can be found here:
“Deadly Conditions for Mexico-US Migrants” from Al Jazeera English.
”Interactive Art Project Lets Users Investigate Anonymous Border Deaths” from the Bay Citizen.