I heard about this project when it was just getting started–with the call for student applicants. Now the project is complete, students and professors have designed, modeled, constructed, and tested their graceful, elephant-like, robot. Its completion itself is an incredible feat for everyone involved, especially as I consider how many brilliant ideas fizzle as we go about our busy lives as students. The thing itself is a 15-foot blow-up structure that arches over walls as it expands, creating the friendly sensation that someone is reaching out to you. It’s goal is to reflect what an actual structure to facilitate international border crossing would look like. But the full project is not part of this exhibit in the Institute for the Humanities gallery, open until March 23rd.
Instead, the exhibit sheds a unique light on the background and process that brought this art into being. There are large charcoal sketches on the walls, a mini model made with wood and plastic, and a binder of geometry, physics, and algebra plotting the logistics. This is the art behind the art, that we usually don’t see. It took me a minute to adjust to the idea that this was meant to show a process, not a grand product, and to appreciate the exhibit for what it was, the nitty gritty. However, seeing the visions and hopes the creators had for their project also kickstarted my imagination for how we can transform borders. The walls that the border crosser reached over were so foreboding, yet this team of people wanted to overcome them.
The process of creating the border crosser also helped surmount metaphorical borders, in bringing together people from across academic disciplines, from engineering to American cultures, to build and conceptualize the project. I don’t often think about technology intersecting with social issues, or SMTD students working with physics, but the breadth of this project forces viewers to stretch their preconceptions.
I think the most influential part of Border Crossers was the reminder that we can create beautiful things, even before we begin our careers. These students formed a cohesive groups and made something together all within the past few months, which is a pretty incredible achievement. The real world is happening now, and we can all be a part of it, even if we feel like we are not yet significant enough, not yet smart enough, not yet established enough, to produce something great.