At Walker Reader, our new Soundboard series is picking up steam: this week we launched the third installment, featuring four artists: filmmaker Natalia Almada, a MacArthur genius and US/Mexico dual citizen; Jackie Amézquita, an artist who did a 178-mile performative walk from the border to downtown LA, embodying the journey of many immigrants and echoing her own walker from Guatemala to the US as a teenager; LA-based mediator, artist, and homeless advocate Dorit Cypis, and Minneapolis-based playwright, poet, and refugee from Somalia, Ifrah Mansour. The framing:
One of the things recent events at the Mexico/US border have shown us is the power of documentation: audio, video, and photos that indelibly show the human impact of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy and all that comes with it—family separation, children in cages, “tender age” facilities for babies and toddlers, no predetermined plan for family reunification. Two of the most indelible moments for many of us: the photo of a sobbing two-year-old Honduran girl being confronted by border patrol agents and audio of 10 Central American children held in a US Customs and Border Protection facility, including a 6-year-old Salvadoran girl pleading to be reunited with her father and aunt. While the viral response to these images underscores the power of documentary practices, it also raises questions worth considering for those of us in the art world: What can art do that journalism can’t? If documentation can stop us in our tracks, is it art’s job to help us move beyond that, to process what we encounter through journalism? And how does art that embodies events in the news help us achieve real understanding? In the third edition of Soundboard, we posed these questions to four artists with close links to the immigrant experience: a documentary filmmaker with lives on both sides of the border; an immigrant who entered the US illegally, on foot; a socially engaged artist and mediator; and a Somali refugee whose art often deals with trauma faced by refugee children.