Award: Research & Development Grant

Discipline: Visual Arts

Project Collaborator(s):  

City/Town: Tucson

Year: 2019

Artist Website:

If the migrant detention facility is a physical analog for our national ideals, then they are wrapped in chain link fencing and razor wire and detained indeterminately.

Excerpt from David Taylor’s R&D Grant application

Approximately 350,000 migrants were incarcerated in the United States in fiscal year 2016. The non-partisan Migration Policy Institute estimates the for-profit prison industry housed nearly three quarters of that population and generated more than $4 billion in revenue. Similar to security infrastructure on the U.S.-Mexico Border, structures purposed to detain migrant bodies represent a physical expression of shifting attitudes toward immigrants and immigration. Through photographs, video, interviews and documentation, multidisciplinary artist David Taylor’s Migrant Detention Inc. will function as a visual index of the for-profit migrant detention industry drawing upon various representational modes to examine and contextualize the phenomenon of immigrant incarceration through its architecture and societal ramifications.

Taylor’s R&D Grant will support research the artist will conduct to inform the creation of Migrant Detention Inc., including an ambitious itinerary of site visits and interviews with former detainees and private detention center employees.

Taylor sees an opportunity in this research to formulate new veins of inquiry that build upon three previous projects: “Working the Line” an extensive documentation of the U.S.-Mexico border with an emphasis on new security infrastructure; “Monuments: 276 Views of the United States -Mexico Border” which documents 690 miles of border between El Paso/Juarez and Tijuana/San Diego using the obelisks that mark the land boundary as a location device; and “DeLIMITations: a survey of the 1821 border between Mexico and the United States” that functions as a site specific intervention and reframing of border space. “Through those projects,” Taylor wrote in his application for funding, “I have created a knowledge base and network in both the United States and Mexico that will come into play for new efforts which I intend to present in a similarly ambitious manner.”

Eloy Detention Center, Eloy AZ

Video still from the project Migrant Detention Incorporated.

David Taylor’s artwork examines place, territory, history and politics and has been exhibited nationally and internationally. Pursuing long-term projects that reveal the changing circumstances of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, he was awarded a 2008 Guggenheim Fellowship and has released two monographs–Working the Line (Radius Books, 2010) and Monuments: 276 Views of the United States – Mexico Border (Radius Books and Nevada Museum of Art, 2015). His artwork is in the permanent collections of numerous institutions including the Nevada Museum of Art, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and, most recently, the Library of Congress and the MFA Houston. Widely published, Taylor’s projects have been featured in outlets such as Art LTD., The Guardian, Politico, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Places Journal, PREFIX PHOTO, and the Mexico/Latin America Edition of Esquire Magazine. Recent exhibition venues include the Phoenix Art Museum, the MCA San Diego, Museo de las Artes Universidad de Guadalajara, the MFA Houston and Oficina de Proyectos Culturales in Jalisco.

For the summer of 2019 Taylor has been awarded a residency at the prestigious La Tallera – Proyecto Siqueiros in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

A faculty member in the Photography, Video and Imaging area at the University of Arizona School of Art, Taylor earned a BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts University and an MFA from the University of Oregon.