Our Walled World
The confrontation is immediate. Walk into the space Pamela Dodds has created for her exhibition Documenting Border Barriers and you come face to face with a brick wall. One that is layered with other walls. The individual bricks are detailed prints depicting barriers found along borders in various parts of the world.
Each one tells a story, but they are all part of the same story – the attempt to keep people – usually the most vulnerable, “the Other” – out. Barbed wire, concrete, steel, the materials used to prevent movement across borders are exquisitely rendered in these prints to visceral effect.
And here another confrontation: the prints and texts represent the details of an engineering project, cold hard facts. A political solution that lacks the human dimension. These images ask us to imagine what is not rendered: the people who are targeted by these barriers. Who are they? What conditions made it necessary to risk their lives attempting to breach these forbidding structures?
In 1989 the world watched spellbound, as the Berlin Wall came down. In the euphoria that followed, it seemed as if walls were a thing of the past, especially in the new era of globalization. If goods could move more freely, why not people?
The hard reality is that in the intervening years there has been an astounding proliferation of border walls throughout the world. Seventy walls (and counting) have been erected not only in autocratic countries but in democracies as well.
In 2009, commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Stormy Nights Productions produced a documentary Up Against the Wall about this very subject, exploring the themes of borders, sovereignty, migration, human rights and posed the question: Do walls work?
Pamela Dodds’ installation confronts us with the scale and scope of our walled world. Each print an unsettling reminder, a metaphorical brick in the wall.
Eileen Thalenberg, producer