‘Citizens of Earth’ would question borders, identities in Marfa

Image courtesy of Marc Thorpe

MARFA — Marc Thorpe arrived in Marfa after a long drive from New York in December. The architect, designer and artist was visiting for the first time, but “falling in love with Marfa is what inspired me to do something there,” he said. The creative has proposed an ambitious permanent art installation called Citizens of Earth that intends to “question the value of international borders within the context of the 21st century,” according to Thorpe’s website.

When his car approached West Texas, he laid eyes on a hovering outline of something in the distance. Approaching Prada Marfa, Thorpe said, “I was thinking, is that a UFO?” He soon realized he was seeing Border Patrol’s aerostat, a surveillance blimp for the U.S.-Mexico border.

It was a culminating moment for the artist. “Being in the desert and seeing this surveillance blimp that looked like a UFO,” he remembered a quote from Ronald Reagan.

“[Reagan] starts talking about an alien invasion as what would unify the planet and what would make us all one civilization, to put aside our differences.” For Thorpe, “It was all flashing at one moment in the desert.”

He devised a flying saucer inspired disc that would loom above the Far West Texas desert landscape. Perhaps made of stainless steel, the piece would reflect the light and the land, “diffusing the whole notion of borders,” he explained. He hopes to place it 20 miles from Marfa, as close to the border as possible.

For Thorpe, the border is an outdated concept that doesn’t take into account the way the world is today. “If you spend a lot of time traveling around the world, you feel alien everywhere you go. If everyone’s moving around, we’re all basically aliens to each other all the time. It kind of zeroes itself out and says, we’re all just here.”

Thorpe references Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk shooting rockets into space with “these ultimate utopian visions of outer space.” If humans colonize other planets, Thorpe believes specific identities like country of origin will become less relevant.

“Where are you from? I’m from Earth – versus getting into the minutia of what neighborhood you’re from, or what country you’re from. You’re citizens of Earth and that’s that,” he said.

The site-specific art would be temporal, changing based on the time, day, weather and angle from which it is viewed. “To be honest it’s really more of a gesture to Marfa and [Donald] Judd and the minimalists and the bigger story.”

For now the work is just conceptual, though Thorpe is seeking funding opportunities and wants to begin looking into where the installation could be placed.

According to Thorpe’s Citizens of Earth missive, “The socio-political rationalization for borders drawn on the earth have proven throughout history to be problematic. War, poverty, famine, disease, political and economic instability, terrorism, environmental degredation, racism, genocide and much more are all byproducts of the ceaseless reinforcement of borders.”