Saturday, February 11, 2012


Painting the Japanese-American "relocation camps," artists inevitably featured the barbed wire enclosure.

Chiura Obata's juxtaposition of the wire and the written regulations highlights the fact that the barbed wire is stretched only to punctuate the written racist laws that removed these Americans from the West Coast to interior deserts.

Chiura Obata, from Topaz Moon

Estelle Ishigo, from Lone Heart Mountain

Estelle Ishigo's loosely strung barbed wire with wide gaps between the strands also suggests that the incarceration was only symbolically enforced by barbed wire.

Brian Evenson's story "Contagion" similarly relates barbed wire to regulation. As a tool in the real world, barbed wire controls, separates, and imposes order. In response to an incomprehensible and frightening contagion, a town’s panicked populace transforms the wire’s function until the fact of the wire becomes the truth of the new religion—“You shall know the fence and the fence shall make you free.”

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