This lecture was late in the day, and the room where it was held was unbearably hot, so there was not, perhaps, the air of enthusiasm that Soth had enjoyed in his morning presentation. Misrach talked about his ongoing opus Border Cantos, which comprises a group of series on different themes to do with the US/Mexican border. He is working alongside a Mexican collaborator, who specialises in building musical instruments. One element of Misrach’s work is that he brings items he has found near the Border to Guillermo, who turns them into musical instruments and the music is an accompaniment to the images.
Misrach showed us the futility of trying to build a solid barrier between the USA and Mexico, with a selection of rather funny pictures of wall ends which anyone can walk around. He talked about the measures that the US Border Patrols take to prevent and capture migrants entering the USA, which are often draconian and fatal in their implications. He also collects images of strange scarecrows that people make, using the discarded clothes they find. He doesn’t know why they do this, but thinks it might have something to do with the Aztec tradition that every object has a soul/history/voice, which can be exposed.
Misrach’s describes his work as documentary landscape. He deliberately excludes people from the images, preferring to infer their presence through the artefacts he photographs. The work is quietly but overtly political, and he gives some of the money he makes to groups which trey to prevent migrants dying from thirst and starvation during their crossing. On a visual level, his work is a curious mixture of diagonals, centred objects and random positioning, but enough for me to have specifically noticed it.
During the questions section, Misrach was asked what the purpose of the “Canto” was, and he replied that all of the different series are loosely linked together, and the musical vocabulary of cantos being songs/chapters of a larger body of work seemed to fit.
I really liked Misrach’s work and motivation. There are parallels with Salgado’s political work, but in a less market oriented way – you get the impression that Misrach is driven primarily by what he wants to photograph, rather than how well it will sell*. There are also parallels with Andy Goldsworthy and Richard Long’s work on the landscape and the marks we make upon it.
More information about Border Cantos can be found at http://www.bordercantos.com
One of the jaw dropping moments of the Photo London exhibition was Salgado’s $4000 limited edition of his recent work Genesis, which come with its own stand, so one can read it in the manner of a Bible.