Inside Steven Gagnon's car installation "The Border Cruiser," an undocumented Brazilian immigrant twitches in the back seat. This is a video of the immigrant — not a real person — projected onto the cruiser's rear windows, and the Brazilian, a man in his late 20s, is busy explaining the hardship of leaving home to provide for his family.
"Brazil is a very good country to live in, but there is this problem: There is no money to provide for the family," the man says. "You have to go through barbed wires with fear of the police. I paid $10,000 to enter. But we get here and don't know to speak the language."
"The Border Cruiser," a Ford Crown Victoria, will greet visitors in the driveway of the grassy lakefront gallery Whitespace — the Mordes Collection in West Palm Beach, which will showcase similar outdoor and interactive works during the April 1-2 group show "Outside the Box 3."
Gagnon started his "Border Cruiser" project in 2007. After driving the car to be repainted at a body shop in Brooklyn, he discovered most of the shop's employees were undocumented Guatemalans. The Miami Beach sculptor says the cruiser, which he has driven to Art Basel satellite fairs and other galleries, has courted ire and sympathy from anti- and pro-immigration supporters at art events.
"I don't see the car itself as political," Gagnon says. "If you have a sympathetic bent toward immigration, you're going to sympathize. But if you have a right-learning point of view, you'll hear people saying, 'This guy is telling you he shouldn't be here.' The inspiration is to make people aware of what they already have. People don't realize that by virtue of being born here in the U.S., they won the lottery. Meanwhile, there are people who are literally dying to come to this country."
"Outside the Box" curator Lisa Rockford says the open-air biennial, in which 43 site-specific installations sprawl across the gallery's back yard bordering Lake Mangonia, "alludes to nature and the environment." On April 1 and April 2, a trio of judges will assay the works and dole out $1,000 in Best in Show prizes, Rockford says. The display will coincide with the opening of "XXL Photo," a collection of experimental photography inside the nearby Whitespace gallery.
Strolling near Gagnon's "Border Cruiser" and Whitespace's back yard will be Kale Roberts, a Tampa transgender woman who will become a "pony-human hybrid" for her performance-art project "Optical Tranimal" and offer rides to passengers on her Amish-style horse cart. (Artist Lily Matthews, meanwhile, will feed Roberts water and carrots during the performance.) The art collective HousePencilGreen will also roam the grounds, pushing a hot-dog cart that will offer medieval puppet theater to visitors. Georgeta Fondos' "You Are a Diamond in the Rough" is a wishing well built from cinder blocks arranged in a heart-shaped pattern; and TD Gillispie's "Peep Show" consists of a 6-foot-tall tent built from used female undergarments.
"The format is such that it gets artists to create something new, loud and spontaneous," Rockford says. "It's the kind of show designed for artists whose works don't really fit inside a gallery."
"Outside the Box 3" will be on view 7:30-10:30 p.m. Friday, April 1, and Saturday, April 2, at Whitespace — the Mordes Collection, 2805 N. Australian Ave., in West Palm Beach. Admission is $10, and includes free parking. Call 561-842-4131 or go to WhitespaceCollection.com.