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Straddling the Border

Multimedia installation, including paintings, pastel on digital prints, video projection, audio, flipbook, tape, and rock, 2022

Photographs by Melissa Blackall

This multi-media installation is based on a real incident that took place at the Haskell Free Library, which straddles the US-Canadian border, in Rock Island, Quebec and Derby Line, Vermont. Because visitors from both countries were allowed on the premises, during 2017-2019 the library became a meeting place for Iranian families divided by borders and the Muslim ban. In September of 2019, I accompanied a friend to meet her family there.

This installation is based on camera footage that documents an encounter with the US border patrolman in front of the library, while he was preventing my friend’s family from meeting inside the library.  Each piece in this installation represents a part of that footage. While the officer’s voice is a reminder of the violence experienced every day by millions of people,  the voice of a Canadian woman who was able to pass the patrol officer and enter the library without being stopped or questioned reflects our obliviousness in regard to the privileges that we take for granted.

In breaking the linear status of the narrative, each piece presents a unique perspective. The passage through different media enables an immersive experience and exploration of the lenses through which we look at “others”, exploring the gray area and the shifting borders between “us” and “other.” The line, marked by the tape on the floor, reflects the arbitrariness of what we consider “inside” and “outside” and urges us to be conscious of our own positionality in regard to the geopolitical divides.

00:00 / 01:11
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