February 23, 2022

Joel Tauber: Border-Ball, A 40-day pilgrimage along the U.S. and Mexico Border

on view at the Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery

Exhibition Dates:
March 10 – June 4, 2022

Conceived at the height of the immigration debate during the Trump presidency, conceptual artist Joel Tauber embarked on a 40-day pilgrimage along the U.S.–Mexico border. Deeply unsettled by the amplifying division and separation, Tauber wanted to turn the tables of the conversation by fostering connection and community. The result of this poetic and activist gesture is Border-Ball, a site-specific installation exploring how the dynamics of trust and open dialogue can bridge the growing rifts of fractured societies. Presented on the heels of Tauber’s award-winning film of the same title, the exhibition debuts at ArtCenter’s Williamson Gallery from March 10 through June 4, 2022.

On October 29, 2019, Joel Tauber began his journey at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego, walking east along the border wall before heading north. His destination: the Otay Mesa Detention Center, one of the largest lockups for asylum seekers and undocumented migrants in California. He trekked the same route there and back again daily—a seven-mile journey that connects legal entry to the U.S. with the Border Wall and the facility holding hundreds of individuals alleged of being in the country without legal permits. Wearing a custom vintage baseball uniform and backpack in blue, white and red, and tossing a baseball while he walked, Tauber invited people he encountered to walk along with him, play catch, and talk about life and the ensuing predicaments along the border.

For Tauber, the simple action of exchange in tossing the ball with another person is much like a dialogue. “In order to play catch, you must relinquish control, to give and receive, and it’s meditative in a way or ritualistic because it's repetitive. There’s trust, communication involved and it’s a simple pleasure. The same rules apply to both parties.” Throughout these days and actions, Tauber was able to engage with a diverse group of people affected by life at the border, ranging from border patrol agents and business owners to family members waiting outside the detention center. The results of these varied exchanges form the basis of Border-Ball.

The artist stated, “I believe in this country, I love this country, but I’m worried about a lot of the ways that we’re acting right now. The rise of racist rhetoric is not just here, it’s happening in many other parts of the world. How we’re treating immigrants, refugees here are not [demonstrating] what I think is the best version of ourselves. [This has] really bothered me as an American citizen, but also as someone whose grandparents survived the Holocaust and whose stories I’ve heard for a long time. A simple act of playing catch with people might help us remember that the importance of dialogue, as equals, really entails seeing the other person. Once we see them, we have to understand that that person is just as important as ourselves.”

Presented for the first time, Border-Ball transforms the Williamson gallery into a ballpark with a baseball diamond-shaped installation. Stationed at each base is a series of video interviews, organized into baseball innings, of people the artist met while on his border walk. These interviews, collections of personal reflections and stories related to border and the shared culture of baseball, reveal the complexity of our relationships across demarcated boundaries, and presents to the viewer a more intimate view of border politics beyond typical media punditry. The installation also features photographs and ephemera of the pilgrimage, along with a series of portraits Tauber created by framing his interviewees in a baseball card format. To encourage further dialogue, he has also created an interactive space where visitors can play catch and add their own stories.

Described by ArtReview Magazine as “poignantly eccentric as German performance jester John Bock, and as profound as Joseph Beuys,” Joel Tauber is an activist, artist, and filmmaker recognized for multimedia projects that play with the quixotic to profoundly address real societal issues. His ongoing public project Sick-Amour (2005-ongoing) exemplifies Tauber’s practice as he continued to care for and now memorialize a forlorn sycamore tree in a Pasadena parking lot that was beset with the problems of nature in the urban environment and ultimately succumbed to being cut down. “Tauber is clearly aware of the absurdity of his quest, but aware also of the strategic advantage that absurdity offers – in disarming the habitual defenses of his potential viewers, for instance, and jarring them into thinking differently about so familiar an object.” (Los Angeles TImes, 2007).

Tauber’s other notable projects include UNDERWATER: An Operatic Disco (presented at Adamski Gallery Berlin, 2019), The Sharing Project (presented at University Art Museum, Cal State University Long Beach, 2015), Pumping (presented at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, 2011), Searching for The Impossible: The Flying Project (presented at Gallery Saintonge, Montana, 2006), Seven Attempts To Make A Ritual (presented at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, 2005). One of his most recent projects is a podcast about masculinity, produced in collaboration with Eric Wilson, BELT: A 2-Man Memoir (2019).

Tauber hails from a long line of rabbis, and spent 12 years studying Jewish philosophy and religion before becoming an artist. After receiving his BA in art history and sculpture at Yale University, he attended ArtCenter College of Design, where he received his MFA. Tauber currently lives and works in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where he is associate professor of art at Wake Forest University. His work has been featured in numerous solo exhibitions at galleries such as Adamski Gallery in Berlin and Aachen, Germany; KOENIG2 by_robbygreif in Vienna, Austria; and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects. Important group exhibitions in which he has participated include No Matter. Failure and Art at The Kunstverein Hildesheim, Germany (2008); Flight Dreams at The Art Gallery of Novia Scotia (and traveling) (2008); Gravity in Art at De Appel Centre For Contemporary Art, Amsterdam (2005); The California Biennial at the Orange County Museum of Art (2004 and 2008); and many others.

Border-Ball (2021), the film chronicling Tauber’s journey, has won more than 41 film festival awards including “Best Inspirational Film” at the 2021 Nawada International Film Festival (Nawada, India); “Best Social Justice Film” at the 2021 Santhal Pargana International Film Festival (Deoghar, India); and “Best Experimental Film” at the 2021 Chauri Chaura International Film Festival (Gorakhpur, India). The Border-Ball exhibition at ArtCenter’s Williamson Gallery, will feature highlights of the documentary footage in addition to interviews and content exclusive to the exhibition.

Additional awards:

  • The Sharing Project (2011-2019): “Best International Documentary Film” at the 2019 Vintage International Film Festival (Kolhapur, India).
  • Sick Amour (2005-ongoing): Best Documentary Film” at the 2019 Ahmednagar International Short Film Festival (Ahmednagar, India); “Best Green Film” at the 2010 DTLA Film Festival (Los Angeles, CA, USA).

Tauber’s work has been featured in numerous media outlets, including National Public Radio (USA), KCRW Radio (Los Angeles, CA, USA), WFDD Radio (Winston-Salem, NC, USA), Deutsche Welle / Deutschlandfunk radio (Germany), ORF Radio: Ö1 (Austria), NBC local news Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA, USA), NBC local news San Diego (San Diego, CA, USA), the Ovation Network (USA), Swedish Television, ArtReview Magazine, artUS Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times.

Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery
ArtCenter College of Design
1700 Lida Street, Pasadena, Calif. 91103

Admission to the Williamson Gallery will be available by advanced reservation with proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

Free admission

About ArtCenter Exhibitions and the Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery: ArtCenter Exhibitions is a program of public-facing curated spaces. Our programs seek to ignite emotional resonance, provoke intellectual dissonance, and conjure unexpected pathways of thinking by connecting art and design with the social, scientific, humanitarian, and poetic dimensions of our time. Galleries include the Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery at the College’s hillside campus, Peter and Merle Mullin Gallery at its south campus, and ArtCenter DTLA in downtown Los Angeles. Additional curated spaces include the Hoffmitz Milken Center for Typography Gallery (HMCT) and Hutto-Patterson Exhibition Hall located at ArtCenter's south campus, as well as the hillside campus Student Gallery.

The Alyce de Roulet Williamson Gallery has established a broad reputation for exploring the intersection of science and art. Through a nearly three-decade series of programs and exhibitions, it has contributed to the emergence of an international movement among universities, journals, conferences, artistic studio practices, and design strategies that promotes an intensified collaboration between the humanities and sciences.

About ArtCenter College of Design Founded in 1930 and located in Pasadena, California, ArtCenter College of Design is a global leader in art and design education. ArtCenter offers 11 undergraduate and 10 graduate degrees in a wide variety of art and design disciplines. In addition to its top-ranked academic programs, the College also serves the general public through a highly regarded series of year-round online and on campus extension programs for all levels of experience. Renowned for both its ties to industry and its social impact initiatives, ArtCenter is the first design school to receive the United Nations’ Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) status. Throughout the College’s long and storied history, ArtCenter alumni have had a profound impact on popular culture, the way we live and important issues in our society.

Teri Bond
Media Relations Director
ArtCenter College of Design
626 396-2385

Joel Tauber, In Front of the Border Wall (photo direction: Joel Tauber, shot by Max Slomoff), 2020>All images: © Joel Tauber

Border-Ball Route
Joel Tauber, Border-Ball Route, 2020

Some Of The People I Met On My Pilgrimage:
Joel Tauber, Some Of The People I Met On My Pilgrimage: Abraham Fosce, Alam Martinez, Albert Williams, Alex Vera, Amanda Yew, Azor Adame, Blass Montiel, Brigitte Kuo, Carlos David Villa, Carlos Luan Garcia, Christian Murquez, Christina Valentine, Cruz Manuel A Llanos Flores, Daniel Angeles A, David G Real, Diego Jordán, Estella Vargas, Francisco Mendoza, Fred Wu, Georg Pallawch, Grant Miller, Guadalupe Pasillas, Guillermo Cabanellas, Gustavo Rene Gomez, Hannah Kim Varamini, Héctor R González Cuéllar, Henrique Torres, Humberto Garcias, Humberto Velázquez Villalvazo, Indira Briseno, Isai Mota, Javio Corona, Jill Kirby, Judith Atamirano, Kevin Almanza, Leta Ming, Luigi Rivera, Madhu Pocha, Maggie Gonzalez, Marco A. Arreola, Maria Miranda, Mark Bemesderfer, Michael O’Connor, Michal Sopor, Molly Knight, Noberto Diaz, Rosemary and Angelina Olmedo, Rosemary Olmedo Jr, Sandy Novak, Sinjun Balabanoff, Terry Spears, Tom Morrison, Uriel Vicona Guzman, Xavier Martinez, Betty Rothman and Deanna Lynne Horton, 2020