A Photo-Documentation Project by K. Flo Razowsky
It’s about the look of borders come manifest & the effect on the people and the land when the arbitrary line in the sand takes form.
And it’s about creating the intersections to bring it all home.
Up Against The Wall highlights a documentation project that began in 2002 and currently uses the US/Mexico & Spanish/Moroccan borders and Israel’s walls in Palestine to visually explore what happens when nation-state imposed borders become physical and militarized.
It allows a glimpse, of structures built to thwart migrants attempting to reach economic opportunity, of walls created that make indigenous peoples refugees on their own lands, of deadly barriers intended to lock others out, or in, as the case may be. It shows a story of these lines come manifest and the people and land these structures impact. And, for those of us from the “West,” and for those of us with white skin privilege, it puts in front of our faces a story of our own culpability in this globalized world.
This body of work first occurred to me in 2002 as I watched Israel build its wall in the occupied Palestinian West Bank. I watched from the first of the groundbreaking as this structure called a ‘security barrier’ by some, the apartheid wall by others, cut it’s way through the orchards and groves, through the villages and through the heart of the people.
I would stand at this construction site or drive by in a taxi and think, “We think ourselves so civilized, so mature in the world and yet these are the answers we come up with to solve what we see as a problem – build a wall to lock others out, build a fence to keep out of view the problems we ourselves have created but don’t want to take responsibility for. And, the nail in the coffin, let’s build this wall on our neighbor’s land, let’s build this fence on the land of those we criminalize and lock out to begin with.
It struck me as awesome the state of mind of those who abuse power, of those who benefit so greatly from unchecked privilege in this world.
When I returned to the United States after this first brush with the absurd, I began to research borders and different situations around the world where ‘first world’ mentality created lines in the sand that took form, were deadly, and at the same time being crossed by those willing to die for what lie on the other side. I came to realize this concept was not so unusual a means for the “haves” to utilize in order to lock out or otherwise negatively impact the “have nots.” To highlight these absurdities, I got myself to various spots on the globe, including The E.U./Ukrainian, Croatian/Serbian, Spanish/Moroccan (yes, it does exist) borders, the southern US border, and Israel’s Walls in Palestine. The 3 latter are the focus of Up Against The Wall thus far.
Melilla is a Spanish enclave cut off from the north of Morocco by a militarized and deadly triple layer 10ft high structure. Migrants travel for 4,5,6 years to reach this side of the line only to be held in migrant detention centers, some for years, awaiting the legal system to either award them papers or deport them. These of course are only the lucky ones who made it this far alive.
At the US/Mexico border, I spent one week each in El Paso, TX, Nogales, AZ and San Diego, Ca. Definitely not enough time to claim I caught anything more then a glimpse, but I did walk away with a portfolio of pictures of that line in the sand come manifest.
I knew needed to use these pictures in order to show those of us that aren’t forced up against the walls in this world exactly what is in our backyards and to expose the dirty little secrets of our power and privilege.
And of course, I needed to use all of these pictures together to highlight the globalized connections even if the structures were thousands of miles apart:
Up Against The Wall also stands as a tool for movement and community building. Throughout the length of the original show in 2011, local organizations working at the intersections of social issues held workshops, presentations and other events in the exhibit furthering local involvement and access to the show. This allowed for the continued process of bringing artwork and our community work into the same fold. The show also provided a powerful backdrop to these varied issues while supporting work of connecting the issues themselves.
For more images from Up Against The Wall:
About the Artist
K. Flo Razowsky combines art and activism through documentary photography, writing and grass-roots organizing. Razowsky has spent more then 15 years supporting First Nations struggles in the U.S., including at Big Mountain/Black Mesa and in Minnesota. Internationally, Razowsky has spent over 22 months in occupied Palestine between 2002 and 2008 splitting time between documenting life on the ground and participating in Palestinian organized non-violent resistance to Israel’s occupation. In 2012, Flo was a team member of Witness Bahrain, a grassroots and on-the-ground initiative to monitor human rights abuses at the hands of the Bahraini regime on the one-year anniversary of the on-going revolution in Bahrain.
Razowsky has continued this work through writing, photo exhibits, community organizing and education campaigns, including as an organizer with the International Jewish anti-Zionist Network (IJAN), and as a founding member of Minnesota Break the Bonds (MN BBC). Flo also wrote and directed, Café Intifada, a theater piece based on first-hand experiences in occupied Palestine and has developed and produced the on-going photographic documentation project, Up Against The Wall, which visually explores what happens when nation-state imposed borders become physical and militarized.
More simply, Razowsky is a Jewish, USA-raised global traveler, joining documentary photography, writing, and no-compromise activism to the international struggle for human rights, dignity, freedom, and respect for the Earth in the face of US-led imperialism, racism and attempted world domination.