From a Press Release by IPS

Visual and performance artists Cassils and rafa esparza present In Plain Sight: an activist artwork created in collaboration with 80 artists, dedicated to the abolition of immigrant detention and the United States culture of incarceration.

The project will culminate over “Independence Day” weekend in a spectacular performance to expose the detention camps that are hiding “in plain sight” to the American public.

On July 3, In Plain Sight will launch skytyping plane fleets to spell out artist-generated messages over 80 detention facilities, immigration courts, borders, sites of former incarceration camps, and other historically significant landmarks. Written with water vapor, the messages can be seen and read for miles. Each artist’s message will end in #XMAP, a hashtag devised to lead viewers to In Plain Sight’s website and interactive map which, using geolocation technologies, locates the ICE detention facilities within your immediate vicinity. The goal of this skytyping performance is to make visible what is too often unseen and unspoken on the ground: the appalling, profoundly immoral imprisonment of immigrants.


IPS artists depicting a vast array of ages, gender presentations and subjective lived experiences have been asked to focus their attention on the subject matter of immigrant detention and the culture of incarceration in an act of solidarity—from deconstructing the notions of whiteness in the U.S., to amplifying queer voices, to highlighting the violation of human rights that comes in tandem with ICE. Among the artists are Dread Scott; Emory Douglas, former Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party; Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of Black Lives Matter; trans activist Zackary Drucker; Asian-American curator and writer Karen Ishizuka; Colombian artist Carlos Motta; and many others.


The project is conceived in six parts: a precisely orchestrated, moving and poetic elegy on a national scale; a website; an anthology docuseries; an augmented reality ap: actions the public can take to join the movement against immigrant detention; and partnerships producing arts-related education and engagement with cultural organizations.


Adults and children have been suffering and dying in taxpayer funded facilities. In 2019, U.S.Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reported an average daily total of 50,000+ incarcerated migrants.

According to the federal government data, over 70 percent of people are held in privately-run immigrant prisons. Various reports detail horrifying conditions: overcrowded cells without physical room for individuals to sleep; toilets as drinking fountains; lack of access to showers for periods sometimes exceeding 20 days. On October 24th, 2019, ACLU reported more than 5,400 children have been separated from their families at the Mexico border since July 2017. Since 2003 there have been 207 deaths in ICE detention, and this does not include children.

Compounded by COVID-19, the immigrant community continues to be disproportionately oppressed. Prompt action to release individuals from ICE detention is not only the just and moral course, but the most reasonable health intervention to prevent unnecessary deaths. The migrant community does not have protection from COV ID-19 and lacks basic supplies including soap, disinfectant and face masks.


Using several Carbon Footprint Calculators, IPS has estimated that each half hour skywriting flight can be offset by planting five trees. IPS artist Sam Van Aken has generously offered to plant The Tree of 40 Fruit: a series of fruit trees created by Aken using a grafting technique. Each tree will produce forty types of stone fruit ripening sequentially from July to October; these trees will be placed in close proximity to detention facilities and sights of incarceration


In Plain Sight aims to both amplify the voices on the inside and serve as a pipeline to partner organizations that directly serve the immigrant community. These organizations include The Haitian Bridge Alliance, the ACLU of Southern California, Detention Watch Network, MIJENTE, and a host of others.

The 80 artists involved seek progressive social change around a cluster of issues—from indigenous land to transgender representation. Award winning social justice documentarian PJ Raval and producer Farihah Zaman have signed on to produce an episodic series filming concurrently. The series will delve more deeply into the project’s themes of migration, identity and belonging via the personal and creative lives of the participating artists and activists in the trenches; many of whom are themselves immigrant, first generation, and/or undocumented.

IPS invites the public to join the #FreeThemAll campaign, a response to the growing public health crisis caused by the COV ID-19 pandemic; to support the National ImmigrationDetention Bond Fund, enabling individuals to focus their efforts on winning their immigration cases; and, for those eligible in the U.S., to vote.

Poster art by Julio Salgado


The Number 29 |
Erin Allweiss | +1 202 446 8265
Sue Ariza | +1 347 722 4707
Myrtille Beauvert | +1 347 295 7694
Abigail Glasgow | +1 804 357 0526
Matisse Bustos-Hawkes | +1 917 806 6181

IN PLAIN SIGHT COMMUNICATIONS Defund The police & Abolish Ice Collective Immigrant Legal Resources Center National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) Clinica Romero Salvadoran American Leadership and EducationalFund (SALEF) CARECEN-LA El Rescate Mayavision Center for Cultural Power ACLU SoCal RAICES Central American Research Policy Institute (CARPI) Detention Watch Network / CIYJA Familia: TQLM - Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement Freedom For Immigrants Haitian Bridge Alliance (HBA) La Resistencia Make the Road NY & NJ Mijente Trans Latina Coalition