It all began when artist Hillary Mushkin’s roof in Echo Park needed to be fixed, and the builder she contracted had mysteriously disappeared. It turns out that he was detained for six weeks even though he had a green card. “I'm an American citizen. I was born here. These are the laws of my country, and I don't know or understand anything about them,” said Mushkin. “It was disturbing to me that I did not understand that that was possible.”
This incident started Mushkin down the rabbit hole of border law, where she discovered the 100-mile border zone, an area all around the United States (swallowing up whole states like Florida and Michigan) where federal law permits U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents can “enter private property, set up highway checkpoints; stop, question and detain individuals they suspect to have committed immigration violations — and can even use race and ethnicity as factors to do so.”
The revelation so disturbed Mushkin that it catalyzed her “Three Border Ecologies” project. “My project is focused on the concept of visualizing that hundred-mile inland border. What it actually looks like, where it is, and how we can sort of recognize something which isn't actually just a line that you could build on because it’s such a gigantic, not specific place,” says Mushkin.
She brought activists Ricardo Favela and Lilian Serrano of Alianza Comunitaria and artists together in three selected border locations to actually view the range of locations that sits uncomfortably within this border zone and to draw what they saw.
There were no protest signs in sight, but nevertheless Mushkin’s work was powerful in that it asked people to sit, to stay and to contemplate. “My thinking is that drawing as a single artist onsite in these places doesn't really have the same power as it does when there are multiple people who are looking at a place together. We are in a sense sort of acting as a community who is witnessing and trying to record our observations about these sites and about this border ecology.”
Listen the thoughts of a few of the participating artists below: