From 18 – 29 JANUARY 2021, the English Department and WWU Kulturbüro hosted the “Hostile Terrain 94” installation at the WWU Bibelmuseum (Johannisstr. 20, 48143 Münster). The exhibition tackled questions of border regimes, contingent belonging, agency, art, activism, and remembrance, and was part of a global collaborative art project organised by the Undocumented Migration Project.
Hostile terrain is the term used by US Border Patrol to describe the deathly strip of land that divides Mexico from the US, encompassed by the Arizona Dessert. As a result of the 1994 US immigration policy of “Prevention Through Deterrence”, safer passages through the borderlands have been shut down so that thousands of immigrants are forced to cross this “hostile terrain” every year. Many perish under the harsh and deadly topography of the border-crossing area.
To highlight this systematic oppression and plight of these identified and unidentified victims, “Hostile Terrain 94” is organized by the Undocumented Migration Project, a non-profit research-art-education-media collective, directed by Professor Jason De León (UCLA). The exhibition is composed of c. 3,200 handwritten toe-tags, filled out by teams of volunteers, each representing a refugee who has died trying to cross the Sonoran Desert of Arizona between the mid-1990s and 2019. A participatory art installation, these geolocated tags are mounted on a large map of the Sonora Desert, pinpointing the exact locations where remains were found.
In preparation of the exhibition, the seminar "Hostile Terrains" was offered at the English Department during the Summer term. More information can be found here.
The exhibition was complemented by a lecture series titled "Contingent Belongings" which related the project to historical and contemporary perspectives on migration, remembrance, borders, and belonging. The lecture series included speakers from disciplines such as Art History, American Studies, Christian Social Sciences, Migration Research and Intercultural Studies.
Information on the project in German can be found here.