MCLA BCRC Presents ‘Hostile Terrain 94,’ Installation and Programming that Zones in on U.S. Border Policy

NORTH ADAMS, MASS. —Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) Gallery 51 is collaborating with faculty from MCLA and Williams College to bring Hostile Terrain 94, an interdisciplinary installation with related academic programming that illustrates in stark terms the violence of United States border policies, to the Northern Berkshires. 

A multi-site, interactive installation, Hostile Terrain 94 memorializes the thousands of people who have perished seeking to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. Gallery 51 is one of over 100 sites worldwide hosting this exhibition, which will open in February 2021. Before the exhibition opens, this installation will come to MCLA’s campus to engage in conversation with the MCLA and regional community about immigration, belonging, and social change. 

This program will encompass the whole of the 2020-2021 academic year, beginning with workshops and guest speakers in fall 2020 and continue through Spring 2021 after the exhibition opening in February 2021.  

In concert with HT94, Gallery 51 will feature the work of Sergio de la Torre, Chris Treggiari of Sanctuary City Project (SCP), and Trinh Mai, all of whom will collaborate with students, faculty, and the community on a series of workshops and experiences that examine identity, belonging, fear, and trauma. Students will conduct interviews with family and community members to create their own SCP-like posters. These works will be distilled down to work that SCP will incorporate into the Gallery 51 exhibition. 

HT94 is sponsored and organized by the Undocumented Migration Project (UMP), a nonprofit research-art-education-media collective directed by anthropologist Jason De León. The exhibition is composed of 3,200 handwritten toe tags that represent migrants who have died trying to cross the Sonoran Desert of Arizona between the mid-1990s and 2019. These tags are geolocated on a wall map of the desert showing the exact locations where remains were found. This installation will simultaneously take place at a large number of institutions, both nationally and globally. 

In preparation for the exhibit, 3,205 toe tags will be filled out by MCLA students and community members; these will be displayed on a map as part of Gallery 51’s Hostile Terrain exhibition in February. 

The Berkshire community is also invited to join in reflection and dialogue through artwork of the Sanctuary City Project, to answer questions posed to prompt reflection and self-interrogation around and about immigration policy in the U.S. The Sanctuary City Project and BCRC have launched a series of billboards, banners, posters, and postcards that will be on display in North Adams and Pittsfield; all will ask community members to answer the questions “When did you forget you were an immigrant?” and “What would you tell an immigrant?” with community responses gathered via a phone line. 

This semester, BCRC launched a community read in relation to the exhibit, with a reading list pulled together by participating artists and professors. MCLA professors Lisa Donovan (arts management), Victoria Papa (English and Communications), Melanie Mowinski (art), and Anna Jaysane Darr (anthropology), as well as Williams College Lipp Family Endowed Chair of Dance Sandra Burton, are partnering to find intersections around HT94 for their students. A course, taught by Jaysane Darr, will incorporate programming that will be offered throughout the year by Gallery 51. 

“This project is a continuation of the work MCLA, via BCRC, are committed to doing, using art as the vehicle,” said BCRC Director Erica Wall. “Hostile Terrain provides us all another opportunity to reflect, respond, and act in order to engage in the difficult conversations that not only move us forward but also bring us together.” 

“This project is not just about immigration,” Wall said. “HT94 is about discussing and sharing with one another the common histories and narratives that break down our personal borders and consequently build the bridges that connect us.” 

Learn more about this project and the related programming at  
Watch a video about the project: 

About BCRC: 

MCLA’s Berkshire Cultural Resource Center (BCRC) provides opportunities, resources, and support to the Northern Berkshire Community. BCRC brings together the Northern Berkshire , MCLA and greater Creative Communities through its cultural programming including: MCLA Gallery 51, Downstreet Art, B-Hip, and MCLA Presents! We will promote, facilitate, and encourage a dialogue in order to foster a sustainable creative community. BCRC is a collaborative project of MCLA, MASS MoCA, and the City of North Adams.