A decade ago two San Francisco Bay Area architects Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello reflected on the trade and labor imbalances between the U.S. and Mexico and imagined an art installation that would serve as a thought-provoking metaphor for how actions on one side of the border had direct consequences on the other. The discussion led them to create architectural drawings and models for a “Teeter-Totter Wall” interactive display. The work drew the praise from both the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, but the actual installation remained just a concept until this week.
In collaboration with Colectivo Chopeke, an artist collective in Juarez, the two architects supervised the fabrication of three bright pink seesaws that fit through the slats of the border fence so that one side straddled land in Ciudad Juarez in Mexico and the other Sunland Park in New Mexico. Given the disturbing accounts of immigrant children violently separated from parents, while debate over Trump’s proposed 1000- mile border wall rages on, the cheery Teeter-Totter display stood in stark contrast to the barren landscape and projected an ironic, poignant symbolism. Although viewed with apprehension when first installed, children in the nearby community couldn’t resist giving the odd playground toys a try. For a brief time, the border was filled with laughter and excitement as kids partnered with kids on the other side of the fence to bounce up and down. But the seesaws were only allowed to remain up for a day, and the grim reality of the border has returned.