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Estamos Buscando A – We’re Looking For

Posted in Lecture Materials by Paul Turounet on February 20, 2010

Estamos Buscando A – We’re Looking For



As the quest for a greater sense of personal identity, purpose and meaning is universal to our collective existence, Estamos Buscando A – We’re Looking For invites viewers to reflect on the anxiety and uncertainty of the migrants, and contemplate that emotional place we all must face when we leave behind the known for the unknown. Regardless of the demarcation lines of country and culture, we are all migrants in search of something profound and meaningful to our being. The bright border light forces a pause in this transitory experience for the migrant. At that very moment, their faces intimately reveal an unsettling and knowing sense that something is being lost and sacrificed in anticipation of something gained once nightfall finally arrives.



Estamos Buscando A – We’re Looking For features 44 photographs (retablos) and two text pieces displayed in a large-scale installation. In appreciation of each migrant’s collaboration, he or she received a Polaroid of his or her portrait as a record of that one moment of such significant personal transformation. The resulting negatives were digitally printed with a warm tone on 16″ x 20″ aluminum plates, suggesting the essence of the desert landscape, history and memory as well as touching upon such references as 19th-century photographic tintypes and the Mexican religious iconography of the retablo: votive paintings prepared on sheets of tin that are an expression of gratitude from which the subject has been miraculously guided through a dangerous or threatening event with the divine intervention of a holy figure such as Christ, the Virgin or the saints.


Estamos Buscando A – We’re Looking For | preparation and finished installation at West Chester University, 2009


To heighten the physical experience of the U.S. – Mexico border, the photographs are attached to salvaged pieces of the steel border wall that is installed in configurations specific to the installation space. The corrugated steel planks were previously used as temporary aircraft landing ramps during the Vietnam War and measure 4′ and 6′ in length by 2′ in height. There is a total of 61 pieces (332′ linear feet) of the steel border wall to use.

Recent venues of the installation have included the University of San Diego’s Institute for Peace and Justice Galleries and West Chester University in Pennsylvania.  In 2006, Estamos Buscando A – We’re Looking For was selected for inclusion into Photography Now – 100 Portfolios, published as a dvd by Wright State University featuring the work of 100 contemporary photographers from around the world.


Note on music:

Litany of the Saints (Latin, Litania Sanctorum) is a sacred prayer of the Roman Catholic Church that is most prominently sung at the beginning of Sacraments of Initiation for those to be received that night into the Church. Following the invocation of the saints, the Litany concludes with a series of supplications to God to hear the prayers of the worshipers. This version was sung during the funeral of Pope John Paul II.

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