The Border Crossed Us

Art & Design

The Border Crossed Us is a temporary public art installation by the Institute for Infinitely Small Things that transplants the US-Mexico border fence in southern Arizona to the UMass Amherst campus.


What happens when we divide a territory that the community imagines as contiguous? How does the international border in Arizona, seemingly remote from a college campus in northern New England, touch all of our lives?

From April 20 to May 1st, 2011, the UMass Amherst campus was divided along its North-South boundary by a to-scale photographic replica of the vehicle fence that runs along the international boundary in southern Arizona. The particular stretch of fence being represented was erected in 2007 by Homeland Security and now divides the Tohono O’odham Nation – the second largest Native American reservation in the country – into two parts.

The fence ran between a parking garage and the campus center. Over the course of two weeks it served as a provocation, a touchstone for conversation, and a site for talks and performances. Along with the fence’s insertion into daily life on campus, the project invited a delegation of Tohono O’odham, including a tribal elder and several youth to speak about their experience. In addition, the Native American Studies Certificate Program in the Anthropology Department held a panel discussion on Borders & Indigenous Sovereignty as part of the campus’ annual Native American Powwow. Border issues affect several other tribes, including the Mohawk and Abenaki. The delegation of O’odham spoke along with others about these issues during the conference and participate in the powwow.

This project was commissioned by the University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMass Amherst.

The following time-lapse video of the installation was produced using a motion-detecting camera designed for hunting purposes. Sounds are from the accompanying sound installation, which was installed inside the large, circular parking garage vent in the foreground:

The Border Crossed Us Book

This 42-page, full-color book uses maps, essays, photographs, and a variety of other rich graphics to communicate the background and results of The Border Crossed Us.

To purchase the book, please make a donation of $20 or more to the Tohono O’odham Solidarity Project. Email me proof of donation and your address and you will receive a copy of the book.

More info, images and dialogue on the project website:

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