Casa Segura (Safe House) is an artwork that combines a small public access structure on private land in the Sonoran desert in Southern Arizona with a dynamic bilingual web space that facilitates creative exchange, dialogue, and understanding. Located north of the Mexican border, Casa Segura engages three distinct groups: Mexican migrants crossing the border through this dangerous landscape, the property owners whose land they cross, and members of the general public interested in learning more about border issues and the intricate dynamics at play in this heavily trafficked region. It is a conceptual project that contrasts existing conditions with new choices that can positively transform how individuals on both sides of the divide engage with and perceive one another.
Casa Segura provides concerned private property owners on the border with an opportunity to create a life-saving beacon in the desert, a platform for engaging with the anonymous individuals crossing their land, and a non-aggressive means of protecting their homes. The project makes manifest the compassionate choices available to individuals who live within this highly charged border region. As an alternative to the further militarization of the border, Casa Segura offers a new method of engagement and free exchange. Shifting away from the abstract rhetoric of numbers, the project focuses on the anonymous–yet intimate–relationship between a property owner and the individual migrants walking their land.
The small solar-powered structure acts as a temporary transitional space in which migrants can meet basic needs for water and nutrition and share stories via an embedded touch screen interface. Drawing upon the vernacular of traveler graffiti, pictograms, and the Mexican tradition of ex-voto painting, migrants are invited to creatively share something about themselves and their journey with the homeowner and the larger populous. The interface provides a simple means for the migrants to draw, write messages, or make a pictogram from a set of ready-made graphical icons. These icons, representative of Mexican culture, geography and myths/belief systems, are being created in collaboration with Alberto Morackis and Guadalupe Serrano of Yonke Arte Público in Nogales, Mexico.
These images and messages are automatically uploaded to the Casa Segura website from the remote location. The bilingual web site is a public space for viewing the migrant-created images/messages, a place for others to create their own, and an access point for resources about immigration issues and the borders of the southwestern United States.
Casa Segura does not promise resolution to the complex set of issues revolving around the border, illegal immigration, and humanitarian efforts. Instead, it seeks to provide new opportunities for individual action, understanding, creative exchange and dialogue.