Homework: Border Patrol Piece

So this is basically documentation on a homework assignment I had for an MIT class. I figure that some people are probably curious about what classes at MIT are like, espcially non-engineering classes since people don’t talk about them as much.

21A.445/WGS.272  Slavery and Human Trafficking is a Women and Genders Studies class as well as an Anthropology class, making it a social sciences class.

21A.445/WGS.272  Slavery and Human Trafficking
21A.445/WGS.272 Slavery and Human Trafficking

The assignment description was as follows:

Weekly Memo Topic: What is border policing? In addition to your written response, produce a creative response: drawing, poem, music, Vine, Storify, photos, etc. The creative response should be something you can produce in under 15 minutes.

Basically I wanted to make our teacher have to ‘enforce’ a border. I really don’t know what the experience of patrolling or enforcing a border would be like. So I wanted to make someone else have that experience, maybe the discomfort of it or even being desensitized from the violence inherent.

Making of
Making of

So I took a piece of water color paper and made a kind of earth painting with water colors. I tried to use a little salt but I don’t think it went very well. Then I cut the paper along a diagonal and sewed the piece back together with a green embroidery thread. This probably took 5 minutes.

I turned the piece it self into my teacher along with brining a pair of scissors. She had said that an image of the piece would’ve been sufficient which no.

the image of the object is not the object

What I turned in: Piece + Scissors. Instructions: “Cut the string.”

I gave this to her – piece and scissors – and told her to cut the string. The instructions were also on the back of the piece. She asked me a couple of questions and I kept repeating the instruction. I didn’t want to give her any extra information or reassurance about enforcing the border.


Once she started cutting the string, she asked me fewer questions. She hesitated a couple times when she first started cutting the string, but she ended up cutting all of the string. At the end, there were the two pieces of paper separated with the cut string bits still in each piece.


And that’s what I turned in! While she completed the piece I took photos of the process.

We met in small groups and discussed our creative pieces.


I feel pretty satisfied with what I made. I think that I gave her an experience. I also had the experience of sewing the piece together which made watching her cut the piece a little saddening.

Interviews with Border Patrol Agents - Chet Wilson and Jim Runyan
Interviews with Border Patrol Agents – Chet Wilson and Jim Runyan

I think that it would’ve been more helpful if I’d framed the piece, took the framing apart in front of her, and then asked her to cut the string. The finished piece would be to turn in the whole de-assembled piece in her care.

Alternatively, including her comments about participating would’ve added something to the piece. This was while we were reading interviews with border patrol agents. Including an interview with her in a similar formatting seemed a bit excessive at the time, but I think that it would’ve been an illustrative capture of the moment to include with the piece.

As a performance piece, I don’t think you could really replicate the piece. I do think that you could replicate the experience and the learning involved in being asked to enforce a border. More participants would’ve complicated the piece and opened more possibilities.

Daily Make Up

I’m including this as the class is ending since I didn’t want to “spoil” anyone for it who might be in the class. Do people enjoy hearing about MIT classes or the work I do for them?

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