Suzie Zak: Barbed Wire Photo Series
In the desert I walk to the edge of vision.
On a long drive you can cross the horizon over and over. Californians drive on Freeways not Highways. Out West the illusion of freedom is one we value above all else. Even while crawling along a concrete barrier we are free to rage or thrive, maybe make a phone call or spit some sun flower seeds out the window. It is Friday night and many people are moving in the direction of the casinos surrounded by dust storms, or maybe to go get a sound bath. Regardless of what choice we make, there is always a constant presence looming around us, and I’m not talking about the smog or the drought. These days I’ve been looking directly at what’s been haunting the land. It’s a thin, thin line.
“The fence remains the most salient symbol of the European notion of private property and control of domestic animals. Barbed wire- “the wire that won the west,” invented in 1873 to replace “natural” fences of prickly Osage Orange- formed the range that we call “home,” the West we think we know. “Don’t fence me in,” is only a nostalgic theme song since economic reality intruded. Unfenced land is now rare. In free range areas, non-ranching landowners must fence livestock out if they don’t want their streams trampled and vegetation consumed.” - from Lucy Lippard’s The Lure of the Local - Sense of Place in a Multicentered Society
Three days ago Lady was walking beside me when she spotted a cat. Immediately she sprinted towards it. She crawled under the chainlink fence that separates the 5 freeway from the parking lot. I climbed over the fence and ran after them. Between the fence and the low guardrail beside the constant stream of cars stands one tree. The cat found refuge in the tree and Lady ran back to me. I grabbed he by the extra fur on her neck, that bit of fur that doesn’t matter if it grazes the metal of the barbed wire, or if another dog’s teeth begin to dig in. If only we all had some fake-out sacrificial fur. I have always known the freeway to be a site of violence. I have always known a fence to be a site of violence. Thank your neighbor for taking the bolt cutters to the fence, so we can always access the concrete channel that we call the Los Angeles River.