Walls and Borders

I've been working on a new piece for an upcoming exhibition at the Center for Visual Art in Denver, opening in January 2020. The theme of the show centers around the concept of walls and borders, certainly a glaring topic in our country today. I chose to interpret the theme on a global scale, addressing how borders create a bureaucratic nightmare for the most vulnerable people as climate disaster approaches. As of June 2019, according to the United Nations High Council on Refugees (UNHCR), approximately 70.8 million people are forcibly displaced in the world today, whether they are internally displaced in their own nations due to persecution, violence, or war, or refugees in neighboring countries, or asylum seekers. This number is expected to steadily rise as Climate Crisis reaches the world’s most vulnerable populations.


The term “climate refugee” is making its way into global vernacular, however there is no legal definition for it under international law. The legal definition of “refugee” status ensures that stateless people receive basic human rights, and if they are fortunate enough to be resettled (according to the UNHCR, only about 0.5% of refugees are successfully resettled), entitles them to further rights in their new nation. Having no legal standing as they are forcibly displaced, the world’s population of those without a nation due to Climate Crisis will face unimaginable hardship… all due to imaginary “walls”.


Dis/Placed, 2019.

© Leah Swenson 2020