fron/terra cognita + Hostile Terrain (HT94)

Tuesday, November 1 – Sunday, December 11, 2022

Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, Main Gallery
283 Washington Terrace, Middletown, Connecticut

Tuesday through Sunday, Noon to 5pm
(Closed November 21–28 for Thanksgiving break.)
View the COVID-19 Safety Guidelines for the Center for the Arts.

Throughout the exhibition run, members of the campus and community are invited to fill out toe tags in order to raise awareness on the human toll of unauthorized border crossings. Please drop by to participate.


fron/terra cognita + Hostile Terrain (HT94)


fron/terra cognita + Hostile Terrain (HT94) is an exhibition comprising a series of lectures, performances, readings, and art installations on the broad theme of borders, migration, displacement, and violence. Programming will provoke reflections on the territorial dimensions of borders and their consequential effects.

The exhibition will be anchored by the Hostile Terrain (HT94) installation in the gallery. HT94 has been installed at many institutions both nationally and globally in 2021 and throughout 2022. The work of forensic anthropologist and MacArthur Fellow Jason de León (University of California, Los Angeles), HT94 is a visceral and visual documentation of migrant deaths along the United States / Mexico border. ​The exhibition is composed of over 3,200 handwritten toe tags that represent migrants who have died trying to cross the Sonoran Desert of Arizona between the mid-1990s and 2019. The installation will be created by volunteers, who record identifying details of each person and then pin the toe tags to a map of the border region.

HT94 will be installed in the gallery along with other artworks in dialogue with de León's work. Ranging from video, photography, sound installation and film, artwork includes a photo series about potential migrants departing from markets for enslaved persons in Cameroon by Polo Free, video work by Yto Barrada, Denise Ferreira de Silva and Arjuna Neuman, Randa Maroufi, and Ghita Skali, as well as a sound installation by Yara Mekawei. Alongside the installations, the exhibition will include a series of invited special guest experts who will speak on the theme of border/lands and displacement, including Nigerian writer and art critic Emmanuel Iduma, Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, author of The Undocumented Americans; Saida Hodžić, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Cornell University; and Miriam Ticktin, Associate Professor of Anthropology at The New School for Social Research; who will speak on the theme of border/lands and displacement. A non-lending reading room with related texts on the core concepts of the exhibition will also be included in the gallery installation. Wesleyan University is a hosting partner of HT94.

Funding for the exhibition and related programming is provided by the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, College of the Environment, Anthropology Department, the Thomas and Catharine McMahon Fund of the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, African Studies, and CT Humanities.

Image: Detail of photo by Michael Wells, lead photographer of the Undocumented Migration Project and co-curator of Hostile Terrain 94.


Related Events

Talk by Writer and Art Critic Emmanuel Iduma: Monday, September 26, 2022 at 4:30pm

Talk by Miriam Ticktin: Thursday, October 13, 2022 at 5pm

Reading by Author Karla Cornejo Villavicencio: Thursday, October 27, 2022 at 4:30pm [CANCELED]

Community Workshop for the Creation of the Installation: Volunteers Needed - Friday, October 28, 2022 at 11:30am in Usdan University Center, Room 110, 45 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown

Talk by Saida Hodžić: Wednesday, November 2, 2022 at 4:30pm

Talk by Jason De León, Undocumented Migration Project and creator of Hostile Terrain 94: Wednesday, November 9, 2022 at 4:30pm on Zoom

Sound performance by artists Nadia Shihab and Szu-Han Ho: Sunday, November 20, 2022 at 1pm

Panel Discussion—Borders of Cuba and Cubanidad: Thursday, December 1, 2022 at 4:30pm


Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS)

The mission of IRIS is to help refugees and other displaced people establish new lives, regain hope, and contribute to the vitality of Connecticut’s communities. IRIS meets their basic needs: furnished housing, food, clothing, case management, and help starting jobs. IRIS also offers English classes, youth programs, legal assistance to reunite families and help refugees apply for citizenship, health care coordination, and programs to promote emotional wellness. In recent years, IRIS has expanded its services to assist non-refugee immigrants, including asylees, asylum seekers, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, and undocumented immigrants to meet their basic needs and integrate into the New Haven community.

For more information about IRIS, please visit