Judi Werthein is the activist Argentine designer behind the polemics Brinco sneakers, designed to help illegal immigrants cross the U.S.-Mexico border along with the organizers of inSite (a "cross-border" art exhibit that economically supported the project).
The sneakers, in the form of boots, feature the colors of the Mexican flag. On one side, the hologram of "Made in Mexico" with the Aztec eagle and on the heel, the image of Santo Toribio, patron saint of immigrants. They also bring a small bag to carry money or medicine and a compass that guides those who enter the desert. Include a flashlight since most people usually cross at night and on the detachable sole of the shoes, there is a map detailing the Border Strip that runs from Playas de Tijuana to the Arizona desert and the most popular illegal routes to get there.
Made in China, at a cost of $17 a pair and having been personally given away by the designer to those who needed it, the shoes are sold over the border in the US city of San Diego as 'limited edition' art objects for over $200 a pair. Werthein donated part of the money she raised to a Tijuana shelter helping migrants in need.
"The main problem people have at the crossing is their feet. Since people are going to try anyway, at least this will make it safer."
Today, the sneakers are in a display in Tate Modern and due to the controversy created around them when they were presented, the exhibition includes responses to the project, such as media reports, online reactions and threatening messages received by the artist, who was accused of defending and promoting illegal immigration.
Judi Werthein's intention was to draw public attention to the drama of all those who flee from the misery and hypocrisy of a political system that needs cheap labor from immigrants, but hides their rights and considers them politically invisible.
The sneakers reflect an uncomfortable reality about the dangers of illegally crossing the border. A reality that we prefer not to see, and it is just that, what an artist reveals. Presented as a product halfway between a work of art and an article of first necessity, this tool allows all those fleeing from misery in the limits of Mexico and the U.S. to travel between the First and the Third World.