Putting a sardonic, yet poignant twist to typical welcoming centers seen in national parks, Japanese artist collective, Chim↑Pom has created a “U.S.A Visitor’s Center” on the Tijuana border. The treehouse shack is perched high in a tree overlooking the border wall that separates Tijuana from San Diego, California.
The “Visitors Center” is a rickety wooden structure that sits precariously among the feeble tree limbs located on a family home in Colonia Libertad area. The desolate Mexican neighborhood has seen countless amounts of Mexican migrants pass through on their way to cross the border. The artist collective, (formed in Tokyo in 2005) met the owners, whose self-built house sits adjacent to the treehouse, while visiting Mexico last year.
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The Japanese team installed the protest art installation last July as a metaphor of the “unreachable USA”. One of the artists in the collective, Ellie, was previously denied entry into the country when working with a Japanese TV crew. In an interview with Hyperallergic, Chim↑Pom explained the inspiration behind the project, “National parks like the Grand Canyon have visitor centers to learn about places that you cannot enter. In Tijuana, there are many people who cannot enter the US. So for people like them and Ellie, this is a USA Visitor Center to think about what America is.”
In clear view of the treehouse, the artists also placed a white cross on the American side of the border. With a little help from the community, Chim↑Pom scaled the border wall to place the cross there as a symbolic gesture to liberty. Ellie then lowered herself into an underground tunnel that leads to the American side of the wall in order to leave her footprints under the country’s land she is forbidden from entering. Both of the installations, “Libertad” and “The Ground” represent a place of “in-betweenness and uncertainty”, a state many immigrants can relate to these days under Donald Trump’s immigration ban.
Both of the US-based installations will most likely be removed soon by authorities, but the Visitor’s Center is on private land, hopefully ensuring a little longevity. “Since it’s a center to view ‘Libertad’ and ‘The Grounds,’ it’s essentially like an art gallery, but once those two works are removed it won’t have that function,” Chim↑Pom said. “But you’ll still be able to look over the US, and if a new wall is built, you would be able to see the construction.”
Photography via Chim↑Pom and MUJIN-TO Production. Lead photo by Osamu Matsuda.