Exhibition shows images of the border between Mexico and walls, fences

This June 15, 2017, photo by Kenneth Madsen, shows a post-on-rail-style fence along the floodplain of the Colorado River between Arizona and Baja California, which is characteristic for the wall fences placed in ecologically sensitive areas or in areas that are prone to flooding. A new photographic exhibition by Madsen opening Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018, at the Ohio State University Newark campus, “Close-Up with the AMERICAN-mexican Border Barriers,” highlights different types of wall-screens. (Kenneth Madsen via AP)

NEWARK, Ohio – The U.S. border wall with Mexico is frequently in the news, but few people have a chance to visit it up close, or to see details of the different sections.

Kenneth Madsen, Ohio State University, professor of geography and wall expert, hopes that his new photo exhibition will help to bring the border closer to the people in a time of fierce debate about the role of the wall, and the barriers in the society in general.

“The U.S.-mexican Border Barriers” opens Wednesday at the LeFevre Art Gallery the Ohio State campus in Newark, 40 miles (64 km) east of Columbus. The free exhibition of 33 poster-size photos with wall pictures and cards.

One of the exhibition’s objectives is to create awareness about the wall, which can include low-grade sections in rural areas meant to stop vehicles and much stronger barriers in the cities, meant to stop people, Madsen said.

“People don’t generally have a chance to see something up close, at that level of detail to know what’s going on,” he said.

President Donald Trump has been advised of the possibility of a government shutdown before the November elections about his attempt to build a wall on the U.S.-mexico border, even as Republican congressional leaders publicly urged him away from that path and predicted it would not happen. “The building of the wall!” was a regular rallying cry during Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Madsen has done the research to the wall, because he graduate school days 20 years ago. His photo exhibition consists of photos taken with an iPhone mostly in 2017, when he has a sabbatical.

In one image, children play at a Mexican children’s playground next to a barrier in Tijuana, near the Pacific Ocean, while a U.S. border agent watches from his SUV on the American side, just a few hundred metres away.

In another stadium lights above on high stilts supervision a barrier for pedestrians that extends for miles along a section of the wall between Douglas, Arizona and Agua Prieta in the Mexican state of Sonora.

In a third, a post-on-rail type wall snakes through a Colorado River floodplain in Arizona and Baja California in Mexico, a design intended to minimize soil disturbance in sensitive landscapes, but also to prevent it from being washed away in a flood.

AMERICAN communities have the tendency to grow away from the wall, while the Mexican communities tend to hug them close, Madsen said. That helps account for large murals or painted panels along different sections on the Mexican side.

Madsen is also an expert on cancellations along the wall, in which the government can be exempted fence construction of a variety of federal requirements, including archaeological and environmental surveys.

Madsen plans to take part in an international conference on the boundary walls next week in Montreal.

A border-to-border expert attending the conference says that it is important to share in the experience of the border with the people by means of such exhibitions because so many stereotypes about the wall wrong.

“The social construction of the boundary is negative and is maintained by people who have never seen it, here it is, touched it, felt it, crossed it,” said Irasema Coronado, a political science professor at the University of Texas at El Paso and a past president of the Association for Borderland Studies.

Madsen’s exhibit is not overtly political, and provides useful information for people on both sides of the border debate. But he notes that the irony of that wall building is increased with the rise of globalization.

Although the free flow of capital means more freedom for more people, “there are also these border walls and fences to restrict movement of people of lesser economic means with less opportunities, who might be stuck in bad situations,” he said.


Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter

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