Monday, January 18 sees the start of the participatory art installation project “Hostile Terrain 94? in the inner courtyard of the Bible Museum at the University of Münster. The project focuses on the consequences and the victims of the USA’s border policy decisions. “Hostile terrain? is the term which the United States Border Patrol uses to describe the strip of land separating Mexico from the USA and the Sonoran Desert. As a result of the immigration policy which the USA initiated in 1994, with its strategy of “prevention through deterrence’, thousands of people have since been forced to cross the hostile terrain of the Sonoran Desert every year. For many, this became a deathtrap.
The international and participatory exhibition “Hostile Terrain 94? was devised by Prof. Jason de Léon at the University of California in Los Angeles and is being installed at over 100 locations all over the world - one of them being the University of Münster. On the initiative of Annika Reketat, who is doing the National and Transnational Studies course, the Department of English set up the project in collaboration with the University’s Cultural Office. The centrepiece is an installation consisting of over 3,200 toe tags filled out by hand by volunteers. Toe tags are attached to the bodies of dead people for identification purposes in Pathology Departments. Every toe tag represents a refugee who lost their life between 1994 and 2019 trying to cross the Sonoran Desert.
The installation can be seen in the inner courtyard of the Bible Museum from January 18 to 29. Visitors can see the exhibit without needing to enter any building as the installation is visible through the Museum’s long glass front - on which there are also stickers with QR codes which direct the visitor to the website as a virtual exhibition room for the project. A special way of interacting with the installation is provided by the “HT94 Augmented Reality Experience’, which enables visitors to experience the exhibit in an interactive, virtual way. In addition, there will be video material on the website about the installation of the project.
As part of the Hostile Terrains seminar at Münster University, students set up project groups to discuss aspects of migration, remembrance and homeland. The results of these discussions can be found in three blogs, accessible via the website. While the exhibition is being staged, there will also be a series of digital talks under the title of “Continent Belonging’. The six talks will be free of charge, open to everybody and given online in both German and English. Links with information on how to tune in will be published, just before each talk, on the exhibition’s website. The speakers will be Prof. Mitja Banerjee (Mainz), Dr. Ina Batzke (Augsburg), Prof. Ursula Frohne (Münster), Prof. Silke Hensel (Münster), Prof. Jürgen Oltmer (Osnabrück) and Dr. Jesper Reddig (Münster).