California-based architects Ronald Rael and Virigina San Fratello with Colectivo Chopeke installed the "Teeter-Totter Wall" between the border wall's ridges in 2019.
Years after former United States President Donald Trump first entered office, his dream of a border wall that separated the country from Mexico was only partially fulfilled. To further undermine his attempts at dividing two friendly countries, California-based architects Ronald Rael and Virigina San Fratello with Colectivo Chopeke installed the "Teeter-Totter Wall" between the border wall's ridges in 2019. A temporary interactive installation, the masterpiece comprised seesaws which allowed children on both sides of the border to play together. The installation has since won the 2020 Beazley Design of the Year, an award and exhibition run every year by London's Design Museum, CNN reports.
The installation originally lasted through the month of July 2019. Consisting of three pink seesaws that children could actually use, the "Teeter-Totter Wall" was a huge success, both in-person and online. Children from El Paso, Texas, and the Anapra community in Juárez, Mexico, had the opportunity to play together despite the 20-foot wall that separated them from each other. The wall still stands there today, at the site of the most-crossed border in the world. Although it continues to be a site of "political fracture," for a few minutes, it represented the joy of empathy and compassion.
The "Teeter-Totter Wall" installation, developed in collaboration with Juárez artist collective Colectivo Chopeke, was created in order to highlight the intrinsic connection between the two lands. A description of the installation on the Design Museum reads, "Viewing the boundary as a site that severs relationships between the two countries, they wanted to create a place where citizens across the border could connect." Architect Rael shared in a 2019 interview with CNN, "What you do on one side has an impact on the other and that's what a seesaw is."
Owing to how controversial the wall is, the project actually took 10 years to come to fruition. Rael had been researching the wall since 2009, long before Trump had hit the campaign trail. The architect began designing the project in reaction to the 2006 Secure Fence Act, an act that authorized and partially funded the construction of 700 miles (1,125 km) of fencing along the Mexican border. While the installation was live for just under 20 minutes, it did, nonetheless, almost immediately go viral. According to Rael, the event was "filled with joy, excitement, and togetherness at the border wall" even though it was just temporary.
"The work is an act of protest, but we were not out there with picket signs," he added. "We were not out there stating particular messages of resistance. We were demonstrating how the act of play, the act of engaging that place, was our act of resistance to say that, ‘This is our place,’ and we can dismantle the meaning of the wall and its violence." Tim Marlow, the chief executive and director of the Design Museum, acknowledged the power of the installation in a press statement. "The Teeter-Totter Wall encouraged new ways of human connection," he said. "It remains an inventive and poignant reminder of how human beings can transcend the forces that seek to divide us."