US-Mexico Border: Pink Seesaw Installation Wins 2020 ‘Design Of The Year’


The United States-Mexico national border is not only one of the longest ones in the world, but it also surely gets a lot of attention. Over the years, it has somewhat become a symbol of friction and division as well as coexistence and friendship. But the tension can be felt on both sides regarding foreign policies and diplomacy.


The nearly 2000-mile-long border between the two countries has attracted the attention of a few artists before, and this time, a set of pink seesaws received ‘Design of the Year’ curated by London Design Museum. The seesaws were installed in the steel border fence dividing Sunland Park, New Mexico, US and Ciudad Juarez in Mexico through the 20 ft steel fence, allowing kids in two different countries to actually play together at the same time.


Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello installed bright pink seesaws through US-Mexico border that won ‘Design Of The Year’ 2020




 












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Image credits: Ronald Rael


The playful installation immediately attracted lighthearted kids ready to have fun, but it also served as a social and artistic statement



Image credits: Ronald Rael


The creators behind the seesaw installation also saw it as a response to Donald Trump’s divisive policy that sparked a lot of emotions. Experiencing significant traffic of thousands of illegal immigrants and being the subject of ample controversy dealing with detention and deportation, the border practically screams for some positivity and color. The current CEO and Director of London Design Museum expressed that the installation is an “inventive and poignant reminder of how human beings can transcend the forces that seek to divide us.” The US plan to build a wall sparked the need to find new ways of human connection and this, perhaps, was one of its strong manifestations.



Image credits: Ronald Rael


The pink seesaws, placed with the help from a Mexican artist collective group, symbolized togetherness



Image credits: Ronald Rael


Two main people involved in the making of the installation Teeter-Totter Wall were Ronald Rael, a professor at UC Berkeley, and Virginia San Fratello, who is associate professor of design at San Jose State University. Together, they worked on numerous conceptual drawings back in 2009 that materialized 10 years later when they were finally installed in Sunland Park with the help of art collection Collective Chopeke from Juarez, Mexico. The installation was an apex of the decade’s collaboration between the two academics. The actual installation that Rael and San Fratello worked on only lasted for 20 minutes when it was installed back in July 2019, but attracted many passersby eager to connect with people on the other side of the wall or at least have some fun and feel like a child again.


Rael and Fratello’s idea took time to conceptualize, and after 10 years of work, it finally materialized



Image credits: Ronald Rael


It meant to symbolize that the actions that take place on one side have a direct consequence on the other side



Image credits: Ronald Rael


In an Instagram post, Rael expressed that bringing to life the conceptual drawings of the Teeter-Totter Wall project from back in 2009 was one of the most incredible experiences in his and San Fratello’s career. He shared that the event at the border wall was filled with joy, excitement, and togetherness. “The wall became a literal fulcrum for US-Mexico relations and children and adults were connected in meaningful ways on both sides with the recognition that the actions that take place on one side have a direct consequence on the other side.”



Image credits: Ronald Rael


The installation has definitely brought sheer joy to the people on both sides of the border and provided them an opportunity to connect



Image credits: Ronald Rael



Image credits: Ronald Rael


The Teeter-Totter Wall installation being named ‘Design of the Year’ 2020 was a great surprise for Rael and San Fratello. The project was nominated along with 70 nominees, which included a 3D rendering of the virus causing Covid-19, Lee Ha Jun’s set design from the Oscar-winning South Korean film Parasite, and the Union flag stab-proof vest designed by Banksy, which was worn by British rapper Stormzy at Glastonbury in 2019. The creators of the winning bright pink seesaw installation didn’t expect to be so honored and expressed their gratitude for having the Juarez-based art collective involved in the process. Rael stated that “importantly, it comes at a time when we are hopeful for change and that we start building more bridges instead of walls.”



Image credits: Ronald Rael


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