During last weekend’s Independence Day holiday, when Americans expected the sky to be filled with fireworks, a coalition of 80 artists sent a fleet of skytypers to fly over detention facilities, immigration courts, borders, and sites of historic relevance. The planes spelled out messages that raised awareness of the vast system of immigrant detention centers and the culture of incarceration in the United States.
Led by CalArts alum Cassils (Art-IM MFA 02) and rafa esparza, the artists’ Fourth of July intervention was but one component of In Plain Sight, a project that began a year ago, dedicated to the education, engagement, and mobilization of people to end the detention of immigrants.
In Vogue, Cassils said:
For me, this was really about us trying to figure out a way of visualizing this invisible, abject, horrific problem which is immigrant detention…raf and I both feel that if people knew the numbers, they would actually rise up and say, ‘No, this can’t be, we don’t want this.’ This is about using art in the service of all the incredible work that’s already been done by people on the ground, by our partners.
All 80 artists who joined the coalition are either from immigrant families or are immigrants themselves. Many are also CalArtians, including: Raven Chacon (Music MFA 04), Edgar Arceneaux (Art MFA 01), School of Art faculty Harry Gamboa Jr., Beatriz Cortez (Art MFA 15), Arshia Fatima Haq (Art MFA 05), Gala Porras-Kim (Art MFA 09), Robert Russell (Art MFA 06), and Zackary Drucker (Art MFA 07).
The artists’ messages created for the skytyping intervention were written in a number of languages and appeared in skies across the country. Cortez’ phrase, “No cages, no jaulas,” was emblazoned above downtown Los Angeles. Other phrases included, “Care Not Cages,” “Unseen Mothers,” “ICE will melt,” and “Nosotras Te Vemos (We See You).” Each message was followed by the project hashtag #XMAP.
In Plain Sight is an ongoing project that also includes a docuseries, an interactive website with a map to find out if immigrants are being detained in your community, and cultural partnerships that produce arts-related education and engagement.
Check out some of the messages that were captured on social media below: