Walk in the Sun-Baked Shoes of an Immigrant Crossing the Arizona-Mexico Border

Walk in the Sun-Baked Shoes of an Immigrant Crossing the Arizona-Mexico Border

Virtual Borders Arizona, featuring three on-site installations in the Arizona desert, is meant to make the viewer experience the terror of crossing the U.S.-Mexico border

Teo Armus
  • 21 july 2015

The creators of Virtual Borders Arizona believe that political frontiers are just as virtual as the technology used in their project.

Created by Lithuanian-born curator Gabija Grusaite and Australian street artist Mr Toll, the project uses a virtual reality headset to transport the viewer to view three installations in the Arizona desert: a fried egg, a melting globe, and the “human trap,” a contraption made of chains and spikes.

“Everyone’s trying to put down boundaries or borders on the movement of ideas, people, technologies, and that’s something we feel stops the overall progress of the world,” Grusaite tells PSFK. “It’s really ironic that it [Arizona] used to be Mexico 100 years ago and now it’s being defended against Mexicans.”

While she does not want to impose a particular message onto the piece, Grusaite hopes that Virtual Borders Arizona will spark a dialogue about immigration.

The project first came about when she and Toll, seeing a lack of interesting content on virtual reality, teamed up with the London-based VirtuEye to create an immersive exhibit that puts this technology to a creative use.


“Technology and art used to be kind of one thing,” Grusaite says. “If you think about Leonardo da Vinci, there was always the same idea behind changing the world and changing the way people see the world.”

The virtual reality set program created by VirtuEye allows you to switch between sculptures and vantage points by focusing your (virtual) gaze on a series of buttons that appear when you face downwards.

Just as the VR changes the experience of seeing the sculptures, the team behind Virtual Borders wanted to incorporate the harsh and uncomfortable desert backdrop to add another element to the project.

“It’s a work of art, but it’s also the site-specific location that you see, and the feeling that comes with it,” she says. “That’s part of the art, and it’s why we call it an experience.”

Although the sculptures were already viewable at a launch last week the team is working on incorporating an audio component so that visitors hear clips of undocumented immigrants describing their stories of crossing the border.

In the meantime, though, they’re hoping to get one prominent believer in a U.S.-Mexico fence to visit the project. See the video below:




Virtual Borders Arizona 

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