Nathan Friedman: Attending Limits: The Constitution and Upkeep of the U.S.–Mexico Border

Man and animals next to a monument in the desert
Nathan Friedman, film still from Proof of the Line (2015), a reconstruction of the late 19th-century documentary photographs of D. R. Payne. photo / courtesy of the artist
A custom display frame in a gallery holds a row of fourteen rectangular photographs.
A display of images representing the landscape around the border between Mexico and the U.S. William Staffeld / AAP
12 models obelisk monuments arranged in a row on cinder blocks.
Models of twelve of the two hundred seventy-seven obelisk monuments that mark the U.S.–Mexico boundary line. William Staffeld / AAP
Two men installing an exhibit in a gallery.
Nathan Friedman (B.Arch. '09), right, installing the exhibition with Francisco Quiñones. William Staffeld / AAP
A windowed gallery space with artwork, columns, and white walls.
An oblique view of Friedman's exhibition in Bibliowicz Family Gallery. William Staffeld / AAP
Black text on a white wall.
Detail of a label from the exhibit in Bibliowicz Family Gallery. William Staffeld / AAP
Nathan Friedman, film still from Proof of the Line (2015), a reconstruction of the late 19th-century documentary photographs of D. R. Payne. photo / courtesy of the artist A display of images representing the landscape around the border between Mexico and the U.S. William Staffeld / AAP Models of twelve of the two hundred seventy-seven obelisk monuments that mark the U.S.–Mexico boundary line. William Staffeld / AAP Nathan Friedman (B.Arch. '09), right, installing the exhibition with Francisco Quiñones. William Staffeld / AAP An oblique view of Friedman's exhibition in Bibliowicz Family Gallery. William Staffeld / AAP Detail of a label from the exhibit in Bibliowicz Family Gallery. William Staffeld / AAP

Two hundred seventy-seven obelisk monuments mark the U.S.–Mexico boundary line. Constructed in three distinct phases (1849–56, 1891–1912, and 1964–68), these monuments were the product of territorial negotiations, disputes that were settled ranging from the violent expansion of sovereign limits to the shifting course of a historic boundary river. Commissioned, inscribed, and placed by both the U.S. and Mexico, they served as unique bilateral artifacts that operated across and reflected on separate territories, forms of settlement, and philosophies of nationhood. Attending Limits: The Constitution and Upkeep of the U.S.–Mexico Border presents the recent work of Nathan Friedman (B.Arch. '09) that studies the international boundary through a history of its material artifacts and the modes of representation they have motivated. Through the display of original text, animation, photographs, scale models, and maps, the exhibition theoretically frames an evolution of the U.S.–Mexico border from an abstract, single line to a geopolitical territory.

Friedman is cofounder of Departamento del Distrito, a new design-research practice based in Mexico City. He currently holds teaching positions at Universidad Iberoamericana and RISD. He is a former editor of MIT's Thresholds, and has previously worked for Eisenman Architects, SMAQ Berlin, and the Office for Metropolitan Architecture in Rotterdam, focusing on a contemporary art museum in the heart of Moscow's Gorky Park. Friedman holds an M.S. from the Department of History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture and Art at MIT and a B.Arch. from Cornell University.

Attending Limits has been supported by a Robert James Eidlitz Fellowship and a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. Limited copies of the catalog that accompanied the exhibition at the Woodbury University Hollywood Outpost in 2017 will be available.

The gallery reception will include a public conversation by Nathan Friedman with Francisco Quiñones, Jeremy Foster, Jennifer Minner, and Dan Torop.