The fence erected by the government of the United States along stretches of the border with Mexico has been used as a canvass by countless artists. This week, a French photographer known as JR has added his own contribution.
“Some people dream about fantasy worlds, I dream about walls,” he told the newspaper The New York Times in a phone interview to talk about the monumental photograph of a toddler that he installed at the fence on Wednesday.
JR, a self described “artivist,” was developing an idea that had come to him in a dream that took him to the Baja California cities of Tijuana and Tecate.
He was scouting locations close to the border fence in the latter city when he met a family and their year-old toddler David Enrique. When JR asked if he could photograph the child his family agreed, on condition that they could change Kikito, as the infant is called, into a fresh set of clothes.
As he was looking at the child through the lens of his camera JR’s dream took a definite shape. Kikito grasped the sides of his crib to peer out, and JR saw his project.
Now, a 20-meter-tall photo of Kikito looms over the border with the United States, peering from Mexico at what’s on the other side of the fence, and will remain there for a month.
The full impact of the photograph can only be seen and appreciated from the United States side.
“I wonder, is this kid worrying about what will happen? What does he think?” JR said. “At one year old, you don’t see the border or which side is better.”
JR said his piece of art was not inspired by politics, and that it is the viewer and his or her imagination who will interpret its meaning.
The project that began with a dream materialized a few days after the United States president moved to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a program that shields young undocumented immigrants, known as “dreamers,” from deportation.
JR said he had not intended the project to coincide with that news. Instead, he told the Associated Press, it was part of his long-term work to highlight the “Ellis Islands of today,” which has taken him from Gaza to the shores of Italy and now to the California desert.
“Now as an artist I think it’s amazing that the piece arrived at a moment when it creates more dialogue,” he said. “Because the idea itself is to raise more questions.”
Click here to see a map showing the photograph’s location.