Donald Trump’s border wall is the perfect symbol for his presidency: It’s a hatefully grandiose spectacle that’s, ultimately, completely ineffective in its stated purpose. A School of the Art Institute of Chicago artist named Ramón Jiménez Cárdenas articulates that point perfectly with a subversive new project called Mending Wall. It’s a series of eight grappling hooks that are each crafted to scale the eight border wall designs being considered for Trump’s wall.
“As an artist and a designer, I wanted to use my skills to create objects with a statement that brought attention to the walls,” says Jiménez Cárdenas, “because I believe they are a good departure point to talk about immigration and really digest what can be lost and damaged with the threat of physical barriers.”
Phase 1 of the border wall project will cost $18 billion to construct. Each of the prototypes being tested in San Diego is topped with a shape that’s designed to repel people attempting to climb over–a smooth tube, for instance. With Mending Wall, Jiménez Cárdenas demonstrates that these details could be thwarted with nothing more than a rope ladder and a piece of steel bent to perfectly wrap around each profile.
“Four prototypes have a large steel pipe at the top, as they are meant to be ‘anti-climbing,’ a term used by President Trump,” he says. “The other two have spiked and squared apexes. Some other things that were taken into consideration when abstracting the walls were the size, material, and thickness of each wall.”
These aren’t meant to be truly functional objects, though. The most compelling is bent like a home–a symbol that needs zero unpacking–while the others are shaped into various abstractions informed by the shape of the wall itself. Each hook becomes a powerful visual icon–an almost hopeful statement that the practical and ideological forces behind the border wall can be defeated.
“The one thing that attracts me the most to the construction site of the walls is the quantity of the prototypes. There is not one or two, but eight massive/potential border walls,” says Jiménez Cárdenas. “Designing eight grappling hooks for eight walls is my way of saying that there could be 20 or 100 of these prototypes each with a corresponding grappling hook, as there is always a way to overcome a division.”