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Thursday, Jan 02, 2014 - 107 days ago Canvassed | Art & culture

Black-flagging the border

A group of artists and activists built a temporary memorial installation to bring attention to NAFTA's negative side

By Kinsee Morlan

A group of anonymous artists and activists created a subtle-but-dark, temporary memorial to mark the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which was signed into law on Jan. 1, 1994.

Twenty black flags were placed in the sand on the beaches near the U.S.-Mexico border fence. According to a press release, each flag was meant to represent every year of NAFTA as a "symbolic intervention against the abuses that regularly occur in the border territory."


From the press release: 

Thousands of migrants have died in attempted crossings of the U.S.-Mexico border due to increased militarization of the area since 1994, forcing migrants to cross in more dangerous and difficult-to-navigate terrains. The signing of NAFTA on January 1, 1994 initiated the mass relocation of factories, plants and other forms of capital just south of the U.S.-Mexico border where few environmental regulations exist and where exploitative labor practices remain legal. NAFTA and other similar free trade policies allow for the free movement of investment, goods and capital across borders, while denying those same privileges to the people they exploit.

A written statement from the artists: 

The project is titled ‘A Future Memorial For NAFTA’ because it is both meant to reflect on the death that has occurred over the past 20 years, and continues in the present, but also is meant to create hope for the future death of NAFTA and other similar policies. We would like to contextualize the deaths at the border in a long history of migration and border crossings in the Americas and around the world, and the ongoing struggle for the freedom of movement for all peoples. The memorial makes physical the 20 years of death brought about by NAFTA, and prefigures the death of NAFTA itself.”

The installation was removed after Jan. 1 and will be reconstructed and included in yet-to-be-announced gallery exhibitions reflecting on NAFTA and its effects.