Bosco Sodi and studio assistant John Rohrer begin to build a wall
Students, USFCAM staff, and CAM Club volunteers help build Muro
At 6:00 am on Thursday, January 24, under an unseasonal Florida drizzle, the artist Bosco Sodi began to build a wall outside of the USF Contemporary Art Museum. Along with his assistant John Rohrer, student volunteers, staff of USFCAM and members of the CAM Club, Bosco began unloading crates of clay timbers, handmade by artisans in Oaxaca, Mexico, and lining them up in a neat row to set the foundation for what would become a 6 x 20 foot wall. A second row was laid out on top and perpendicular to the first row of timbers. The process continued and the wall took shape, brick by brick and row by row. After over two hours, the last brick was put into place by Don Fuller, New Media Curator at the Contemporary Art Museum, because he was the tallest person present.
Don Fuller places the final brick
Muro (Spanish for “wall”) is at once a temporary public artwork, participatory performance, and free sculpture multiple. The concept of Muro, Bosco’s first public artwork, began at his Casa Wabi Foundation in Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca. Bosco was producing large scale artworks constructed from clay timbers assembled into large cubes. Workers involved in the project would often speak of their plans to emigrate from Mexico to the United States and their concerns about their ability to do so. These conversations led Bosco to envision a new configuration of the clay timbers, a wall made by Mexicans of Mexican materials. Bosco first staged Muro in Washington Square Park in New York City on September 7, 2017, two days after President Trump announced the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. On July 7, 2018, Muro was constructed and disassembled in front of London’s National Theatre as part of Art Night, a one-night contemporary art festival. The London version of Muro was installed shortly after the Supreme Court upheld President’s Trump ban on travel from several predominantly Muslim countries, during the height of outrage surrounding family separations at the southern U.S. border, and during a time of particularly tense Brexit negotiations in the U.K. The installation at USFCAM on January 24, 2019 took place on the second to last day of a U.S. government shutdown resulting from an impasse between President Trump and Congress over funding for a U.S.-Mexico border wall.
Clay Cubes, 2017 at Casa Wabi Foundation
Bosco’s wall was completed at USFCAM at around 8:30 am. People came throughout the morning to view Muro and tour the exhibition of which it is part, The Visible Turn: Contemporary Artists Confront Political Invisibility. In the early afternoon, students from Howard W. Blake Visual and Performing Arts Magnet High School arrived at USFCAM to tour the exhibition and view the installation. Dismantling of Muro began with Bosco taking the first brick, then Blake students were each able to take a brick, which could be carried in a custom-printed bag and was accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. Students and families from the Hispanic Outreach Center in Clearwater also visited USFCAM for the Muro installation, receiving bilingual tours of the installation and exhibition from Deputy Director Noel Smith and Curator-at-Large Christian Viveros-Fauné.
Students from Blake High School begin to dismantle the wall
Students and families from the Hispanic Outreach Center tour The Visible Turn
Students and families from the Hispanic Outreach Center with their piece of the wall
Disassembly of Muro continued apace, with groups of USF students, staff, community members and more coming together to collectively take down the wall. As Bosco stated, “I did it to encourage people that with civic and social action, we’re able to dismantle any kind of wall, whether physical or mental, and remind them that it’s the people who make these kind of decisions—it’s the people, not the government, who rule.”
At 6:30 pm, Director Margaret Miller introduced Christian Viveros-Fauné, the curator of the exhibition. After speaking briefly, he turned over the mic to Bosco Sodi, who gave a short talk about the project.
The Visible Turn, and especially Muro, captured the attention of press, including a review of the exhibition and promotion of Muro by the Tampa Bay Times, CENTRO Tampa, Creative Loafing, and USF’s newspaper The Oracle. A Spanish language digital magazine of contemporary art based in Chile called Artishock featured the exhibition with a focus on Muro. On Friday, January 18, WMNF’s Art in Your Ear interviewed Bosco Sodi (listen to that episode here). Fox 13 Tampa Bay was present on site during the event and highlighted the project with a brief interview with Bosco on the news that evening. A number of local blogs also profiled the project including Bay Art Files and the Ybor City Stogie.
Despite the ephemeral nature of the project, Muro lives on virtually as the time-lapse documentation of the project is now on view as part of The Visible Turn exhibition through March 2. The USF History Department’s Institute for Digital Exploration even scanned the Muro installation on site and created a 3D model of the wall to enable digital visualization of the installation. The concrete impact of Muro is ongoing as participants disperse the bricks, gifts of the artist, into their own personal spaces. Certainly the deepest impact took place among those who were involved in the joyous, positive and inspiring energy around the project, demonstrating Bosco Sodi’s message that through unity and collective action any barriers or obstacles can be dismantled.
Artist Bosco Sodi at USFCAM