Art · Random thoughts

Giant Picnic

JR, Giant Picnic, 2017

On October 8, 2017, the anonymous installation artist known only as JR held a picnic at an enormous table constructed on both sides of the border fence that separates the Mexican city of Tecate from Tecate, California. He had painted the table with a pair of eyes, one positioned on either side of the border.

This communal act of radical hospitality came the month after President Donald Trump had provisionally rescinded the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood ­Arrivals) program that had allowed ‘Dreamers’, undocu­mented migrants who had entered the country as children, a path to US citizenship. As JR was organizing the picnic, Trump had renewed calls for a wall to be built along the Mexican border.

‘Hundreds of guests came from the United States and Mexico to share a meal together,’ wrote JR. ‘People gathered around the eyes of a Dreamer, eating the same food, sharing the same water, enjoying the same music (half of the band on each side). The wall was forgotten for a few moments.’ JR is known for his dramatic, epic-scale works of art, which he has installed in divided communities across the world. More of his work can be seen at jr-art.net.

From Plough no. 18 (Autumn 2018)

Poetry

The forgotten astonishment

the invisible walls,
the rotten masks that divide one man
from another, one man from himself,
they crumble
for one enormous moment and we glimpse
the unity that we lost, the desolation
of being man, and all its glories,
sharing bread and sun and death,
the forgotten astonishment of being alive

From Octavio Paz’s long poem Sunstone / Piedra de Sol.