Bosco Sodi

Bosco Sodi talks about Muro in New York

Bosco Sodi, Muro (Wall), 2017, New York. Photo: Studio Bosco Sodi

On September 7, 2017, the Brooklyn-based Mexican artist Bosco Sodi will deliver on one of Donald Trump’s campaign promises: he will build a wall that was paid for by Mexicans. Beginning at 7 AM, Sodi and his crew will erect Muro, 2017, in Washington Square Park, with 1,600 clay bricks that were fired by hand at the artist’s studio in Mexico. Once his first New York public art installation is finished, Sodi will step back around 3 PM and watch as the community takes it apart.

I DON’T MAKE POLITICAL ART. In the past, various artist friends and associations have invited me to work on political projects, but I always rejected the idea because it wasn’t natural for me. It always felt too forced. But the idea for Muro—a nearly six-foot-high and twenty-six-foot-long wall—came about organically. It was born out of conversations I’ve had with the craftsmen who work in the area near Casa Wabi, my foundation in Oaxaca, Mexico.

The craftsmen told me stories about wanting to be immigrants in the United States and about their experiences living there illegally. Then, one day in February, they brought these clay timbers we had been making for my upcoming show at SCAI the Bathhouse in Japan to my studio, and they stacked them like a wall. When I saw it, I realized this was a piece I needed to make in New York.

Mexicans will build the wall. Since the word has gotten out about this project, I’ve been receiving hundreds of emails from people asking if they can help. I invited architects, writers, and people who work in kitchens and supermarkets in New York. We will begin working on the installation at 7 AM. There are 1,600 clay timbers, so building it should take around three hours. The wall will be completed around 3 PM, and then it will be up to New Yorkers to tear it down.

The clay timbers I designed for Muro were all made in Mexico and transported to New York by truck, along the same route an illegal immigrant might take. Each block will have my signature. Anyone who wants to help tear the wall down will be allowed to take one brick. If you choose to join the experience, you become a co-owner of a piece of art. This opens a door. In the future, if the political situation is still the same, people can get together and rebuild the wall for others to dismantle.

My wife was a little bit worried because I have an artist’s visa, and you never know what will happen. But, as I said to her, I believe in this, and I have to do it. I would be a coward if I didn’t just because of a visa.

I chose to build the piece in Washington Square Park because it is a place where a lot of demonstrations have happened, and I wanted the project to be outside, not in an arts space. I thought the city would be reluctant to give me the permit, but there was no trouble. To me this spoke to the diversity of New York, which is a different world from the rest of America. It was very beautiful.

I’m a little scared, however, about how many cameras will be there. But this project is for the community; every individual has the right and obligation to participate. As soon as the wall is done, I will take a step back. The work will be finished. It will be up to the spectators for it to be a success. I want it to be poetic, not like a protest. But maybe someone will take a brick and try to break it. Then it will just be a part of the performance and the conversation. It would be very boring if everyone agreed on everything, no?