A group of strangers in El Paso sang “Happy Birthday” to 8-year-old Valeria across the border in Juárez – a feat possible through the public art installation known as Border Tuner.

“Gracias,” the El Paso group heard the young girl reply. Her voice echoed through an audio channel created when the light beams from the installation’s high-powered searchlights crossed.

The interactive art piece, created by Mexico-born artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, has attracted thousands to Bowie High School in El Paso and the Chamizal Park in Juárez. The beams are controlled through a small dial wheel, and when lights cross, microphones and speakers switch on and allow participants to talk with one another. 

The installation opened on Nov. 13 and is on display and open to the public through Sunday, Nov. 24. A series of nightly conversations and performances are part of the project. It’s organized by the Rubin Center at UTEP, El Paso Community Foundation and Fundación Comunitaria de la Frontera Norte. 

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