New GRAM exhibit explores the unseen human reality of the Mexican border

The human consequences of immigration policies at the Mexican border is explored in a new art exhibition, ”Border Cantos | Sonic Border,” at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

Presented in English and Spanish, the multi-sensory exhibition addresses the complexities of the Mexican-American border through photographic landscapes, a sound composition, and musical sculptures created from objects found along the border with musical sculptures.  

When experienced as a whole, "Border Cantos | Sonic Border" creates an immersive experience for guests to explore the sights and sounds of the Mexican-American border and engage in conversation about the work. 

“We’re hoping that the show provides some understanding, some empathy, and starts to get people thinking about the circumstances of their own lives, and how the circumstances for others could be different based on nothing but chance or where they were born,” says Jennifer Wcisel, the museum’s curator of collections and exhibitions.

Collaborative work
This exhibition was conceived by photographer Richard Misrach and experimental composer/​artist Guillermo Galindo, who address complex political, environmental, and humanitarian topics in their work. They came together in 2011 after discovering they were both creating work related to the border. 
Richard Misrach
Misrach is known for expansive images focusing on the ways humans interact with and impact the natural environment. 

Galindo is inspired by the Mesoamerican belief that one can bring out the spiritual essence of an object’s past. His composition “Sonic Border” is a 260-minute piece using eight musical instruments he created from objects discarded near the border and will play in the galleries for guests to experience. 

The exhibit is one of the first times the museum has incorporated a musical composition as part of an exhibition.
Together, the artists offer evidence of the thousands of people who have journeyed through the borderlands in hopes of a better life and, by doing so, encourage empathy for the plight of migrants everywhere. 

"We're artists; we're not politicians,” Galindo says. “We want to give people the experience of the border, and to get acquainted with the immigrants' journey. To make it palpable. To make it human.” 

Community events
Hundreds of community members attended the museum’s member exhibition opening on Feb. 2. 
Guillermo Galindo
“Art is a powerful tool for creating conversations, challenging perspectives, and encouraging empathy,” Wcisel says. ​“‘Sonic Border | Border Cantos’ is a moving exhibition that gives voice to the people who left these objects behind and the obstacles they encountered. We hope the exhibition encourages visitors to reflect on the humanity of these experiences as well as their own migration stories.”

The exhibit runs through April 28.  On Saturday, March 9, the museum will host Community Day with the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan—a free day of community, play, and creativity for all ages, with hands-on activities and three floors of exhibitions and interactive experiences. Bilingual team members will be available to assist guests.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, organized the exhibit.

Support for the exhibit is from by the Daniel and Pamela DeVos Foundation, Wege Foundation, Cornucopia Family Foundation, James and Mary Nelson, Greenleaf Trust, brightly, Robert Daveman, AIA/Grand Rapids Community Foundation, Haworth Helps, Dirk and June Hoffius, and Terry D. West and Richard L. Hagan.
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