Friday, March 20, 2009

Floating Fences 1 (Imperial County)

[Image: US-Mexico border fence in the Imperial County sands between Yuma, Arizona and Calexico, California. Photo via Gulf Times.]

If one defining characteristic of the nomadic fortress is that future border barricades will become less stationary and continue to evolve towards movement and self-adjustment on their own, then the U.S. Border Patrol has implemented one example along the nation's largest stretch of sand dunes in California's Imperial County.
Perched between Yuma, Arizona and Calexico, California, the dunes also smooth into Mexico where smugglers have been known to use buggies to blend in with other recreational dune vehicles in order to reach Interstate 8 which is less than a half-mile from the border.
15 feet high, seven miles long and $40m dollars later the “floating fence” basically rests on top of the sand like a sort of tectonic sidewinder, unfastened to anything below the slippery surface. When the sands build up against the fence from winds the Border Patrol simply uses a machine to raise the fence and place it back on top of the sand’s surface again.
From what I gather, it sounds like it also slightly moves and alters itself accordingly with the natural sand shifts since the dunes are not entirely stable, similar to bobbing on water. It's like a post-industrial kiddy pool guard, or something.
I believe there may be a similar fence in parts of the Western Sahara between Morocco and Algeria, or in the Middle East, if I remember correctly reading some time ago, but will have to verify that later. I don’t think this is the first of its kind in the world, maybe in the U.S., though, this article also says there is a similar fence in the El Centro sector in California.

[Image: Photo Via AP.]

Of course the Border Patrol thinks it’s absolutely brilliant, a fence that never loses height and can be easily resettled on a landscape that is constantly shifting its contours. It fits their vision in every way of a dynamic border that can react to and meet the needs of a changing environment, and symbolically the challenges of a constantly shifting political landscape.
They don't seem concerned with tunneling underneath it either because, if I am safe to assume, the sand poses extremely difficult challenges in that regard (though I'm not convinced it is impervious to tunneling, certainly not yet). But my initial reaction was: what about observing the legal coordinates of the boundary itself?
I can just picture some geological surveyors coming out on their ATVs with coolers full of cokes and tuna sandwhiches one afternoon to do some analysis of the fence’s movements only to find that in just a few short months the entire structure has veered much further off course from the border than they had anticipated. It has in fact completely redrawn the border ever so slightly in favor of expanding American territory in the dunes. They leave it, for the time being, unil this "oversight" is detected and accusatory politics erupts, and new meaning is given to the adage, “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.”
Actually, another very interesting scenario would be to let the fence do its floating thing in the sand there for decades just to see where it would end up over time. On how many occasions might it be buried only to resurface again over and over on its own? -- the fence, in this bitter relationship with the landscape, which cannot be fully digested by the earth that must keep regurgitating it.
I have no knowledge of the topographic patterns of the dunes and sand movements, something I'd love to learn more about, but where would that fence end up in, say, 50 years? Who would need to cross it then? Or would the earth just find a way to completely swallow it, like a post-border snake taking eternal refuge in the cooler sands below? Or would the dunes eventually spit it out somehwere on the outskirts where the sands wash up on harsher shores, like a tangled heap of metal thoroughly and terrestrially rejected from its place of deployment?
Yet, in our grimmest of imaginations we fear one let loose by the Euro border security agency Frontex, in fact several strewn across the Saharan desert from Morocco and Egypt, Libya, Ageria, down into Sudan like a squad of steel walled serpents that slowly tumble over the course of time, following drifts with sandstorms at their backs that blow them across the pebbled glaciers like wandering prison yards, slinking and falling over endless slopes in a slow-motion round-up of sun-blistered migrants and refugees wandering starved in dainty festoons northwards from Sub-Sahara Africa.
People of the Earth, Beware. Future fences mobilized by natural ground movements of the desert (dunes power), slithering through peaks and valleys to cut off remote migration zones where ancient sands have swallowed humans for centuries; now haunted by massive militarized sidewinders of border wall toppling mounds of sand, conquering great bodies of dust, with hazy blueprints of detention dragged in their paths.
Border serpents of the Earth, Be Gone with You!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

All it is missing is bright pink fabrick and a run clear thru to the ocean...

the idea of it floating around the dunes for decades is great, maybe it would cross i-8 and you'd veer around it, maybe it would break to pieces like the jetties at normandy. great find and post!

6:01 PM  
Blogger Bryan Finoki said...

Nice! Yes, wilted ruins on the side of the road.

8:29 PM  
Blogger NO BORDER WALL said...

Where the border wall meets the Pacific there is a constant battle between sea, sand, and steel which the steel loses. Strewn along the beach are slabs that have been torn free. Look at the third photo down on this entry to the No Border Wall blog to see:

8:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A Beetlejuice diorama: giant sandworms that swallow our southern neighbors, the economic ghosts, the dechouked denizens, that inhabit our capitalism. Feeding on those people who are not seen but felt in a shadow economy, unwilling citizens of our Casa Blanca imperialism.

11:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks and sounds almost surreal. Any plans of eventually extending it to cover the whole border?

4:56 AM  
Blogger Marcello Di Cintio said...

Hi Bryan. This is fascinating.

I don't think there is anything like this in the Western Sahara, though. According to the research I've done, and the parts of the Sahara 'berm' that I have seen myself, that wall is actually made out of sand.

12:37 PM  
Blogger g. said...

The wall in Western Sahara isn't really a wall, it's more of a mound with a patrol route near it. There's nothing impressive about it, and "stealing" it through isn't an issue. Passing through checkpoints on the Moroccan side roads might prove to be more difficult.

The nearest thing this reminds me of is the installation Alferdo Jaar did when he left Chile, sticking a little plastic flag of his patria across its border.

2:35 PM  

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