Barquito de Papel: we are not butterflies
My family has a long history of migration and I have always been interested in issues related to navigating borders. For years I have been photographing everyday physical borders that separate us from whatever is on the other side: walls, windows, screens as well as monumental borders like the ocean. In this experimental project I consider what it means to cross borders. These everyday borders serve as an intimate way to investigate the overwhelming issue of immigration, reminding us that the issue is a human issue rather than a merely political one. The view and experience that shape our perspectives differ on either side of any kind of border.
This installation combines shifting images of borders with barquitos de papel, paper boats, folded from paper printed with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, adopted by the international community in 1989 and ratified by 196 countries (not including the United States). In this country, Immigration has always been a fraught issue. But immigration is not only an American issue, it is a human issue that impacts people across the globe in ways that can be lifesaving or devastating.
My daughter’s grandparents are exiles from Cuba on one side and Haiti on the other. On both sides the ocean has proved to be a magnificent border and some of my research has taken me to consider the beautiful and terrifying ways the ocean serves as both conduit, barrier and vessel. Since 2014 there have been 21,000 recorded deaths during migration (a necessarily low estimate), the majority of these are caused by drowning making the ocean a tomb as well.
The boats remind us of the vulnerability of migrant populations, particularly children and reference the barquitos in the children’s song:
Barquito de papel, mi amigo fiel, / Little paper boat, my faithful friend,
llevame a navegar por el ancho mar. / carry me away over the wide sea.
Quiero conocer a niños de aquí y allá / I want to meet children from here and there y a todos llevar mi flor de amistad. / and take them all my flower of friendship.
Abajo la guerra , arriba la paz / Down with war, up with peace.
Los niños queremos reir y cantar. / We children want to laugh and sing
Vivian Poey is a photographer and educator in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her work examines a number of issues ranging from migration and cultural assimilation to the passing of time. She is American, born in Mexico of Cuban parents and lived in Guatemala and Colombia before moving to the U.S. This complicated trajectory informs all of her work, which serves as a method of investigation. Her work includes photography, installation and performance.
Poey earned an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and has exhibited her work across the country and in Florence, Italy. In addition to traditional exhibition spaces Poey works to reach multiple communities by exhibiting in educational settings including the Boston Arts Academy, and Lesley University, and has spoken about her work to students of various ages such as the Sumner Elementary school in Boston and at the Crimson Program for public high school students at Harvard University.
Poey teaches Photography and Integrated Studies at the Lesley College of Art + Design.
Contact Vivian Poey