Art and Activism

This installation of "Flag In a Suitcase" was created for a protest rally in support of keeping immigrant families together. When U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement orders a person deported, they or their loved ones are allowed to pack one suitcase whose content cannot exceed 25 pounds. A lifetime is condensed into a single container and thus this suitcases is a container of both what is lived and what is now unlived as a result of deportation. Each story is depicted as a visual narrative and linked through movement in a counterclockwise direction around the suitcase.

This 1930's suitcase is from another period of mass deportation of Mexicans and Mexican-American children when over one-half million were deported from the USA. The bottom of the suitcase is lined with 65 year-old newspapers that are left inside because the headlines eerily match our current headlines: war and occupation, racism, and our precarious relationship with Russia.

The battered suitcase represents our battered and broken immigration policy and each image tells part of the story of the migrant experience. These images highlight the following:  why immigrants flee (typically because of war and violence with US foreign policy as a catalyst); the authoritarian governments they seek asylum from; the current administration's animus towards immigrants from Latin America and other people of color; the government policy of separating families; and the dreams that immigrants carry with them as they leave what is familiar behind.

The Dominican flag highlights a quote by Jeff Sessions made on the Senate floor prior to becoming Attorney General. The suitcase acts as a plinth as the flag unfurls out of the suitcase and the images are assembled around the suitcase to create a contemplative space that the viewer may move around. The pastel image on the outside speaks to the current policy of family separation and as the viewer walks around the suitcase they engage various stories. The counterclockwise movement also echoes the movement of displacement and deportation.

Video shot by Kara Koirtyohann.