Argentine artist Judi Werthein displays a pair of Brinco shoes before handing them out to takers along the U.S.-Mexico border. Photo by Denis Poroy, AP
Too weird almost for words. According to this morning's SF Chronicle via AP the artist is trying to help:
Sounds crazy, but Werthein did the research to make these actually useful to people coming across the border looking for work. A native Spanish-speaker, she "joined the Mexican government's Grupo Beta migrant-aid society on long border hikes" and interviewed migrants. She also found patrons who have funded the project to the tune of $40,000.
What to make of this? My immediate reaction was censorious and utilitarian. Doesn't such an art project make light of the sufferings of people driven by the need to eat who cross our fortified deserts? Couldn't the money in this project have been spent on advocating for immigration reforms that made dangerous, extra-legal border treks unnecessary? (Full disclosure: I am currently consulting with immigrant groups and reform advocates.)
But a little reflection backs me off the judgmental impulse. Just maybe this project can help loosen up some people's view of a situation on which attitudes seem frozen, polarized. Immigration policy is broken; most of the debates around it simply penalize the hungry and provide permanent employment for bureaucrats and various kinds of police. None of it focuses on the continuing human drama and cost. Maybe Judi Werthein has a clue how to do that.