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Naturalizing Immigration exhibition

Join us for the opening reception of Naturalizing Immigration, an exhibition that envisions the U.S. as a forest of trees, created using micro-data consisting of millions of samples of questionnaires from the U.S. Censuses. Nature has its own ways of organizing information. Here, fifty tree sections, one for each state in the U.S., show how population has grown historically due to immigration. In this work, immigrants are interpreted as natural contributors to the growth of a state represented as a tree, contributing to its growth and all being a part of it. Just as cells leave an informational mark in the tree, so too do incoming immigrants contribute to the country’s shape.

Each cell is layered through a computational simulation, forming decennial rings that capture patterns of population growth. The algorithm deposits cells in specific directions depending on the geographic origin of the immigrant. Rings that are more skewed toward the East, for example, show more immigration from Europe while rings skewed South show more immigration from Latin America. Each state has grown at different rates and with varying immigration profiles. Some will be larger, some will be smaller, some will have complex shapes that represent waves of immigrants, while others will be almost circular due to the absence of immigration, each state with its own unique signature.

This is an ongoing project by Pedro M. Cruz, John Wihbey, Avni Ghael, Steve Costa, and Felipe Shibuya. The research was supported by the College of Arts, Media, and Design through a 2017-2018 Dean’s Research Fellowship, which included Sarah J. Jackson and Brooke Foucault Welles. This exhibition has produced with supported from the Northeastern Center for the Arts and Gallery 360, and printed by A+D PhotoLab.

For more information about this exhibition, please visit Simulated Dendrochronology of U.S. Immigration 1790-2016.