Inspiration / Musings / Philadelphia

Chain Link Fences

by C. Eckel

We used to stand beside the batting cages licking grape push-popsicles and talking about making prank phone calls.  The crash of a foul ball against the chain link fence would make us jump while it rattled back toward the mechanical pitcher.  Eventually, error after error, the metallic tremors became no more startling than a lullaby.

My grandmother’s neighbor’s pool that we were never invited to swim in was only partially obscured from her view by a chain-link fence slatted with green plastic.  We could see the other children swimming, but we never spoke to them.

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A fence, according to Rory Kennedy’s documentary The Fence, patched together over 700 miles of the US-Mexico border is composed in parts of chain link.  It has not deterred immigrants, only rerouted them to paths through the fence that will more likely result in their deaths.

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In Australia, the Rabbit-proof fence extends more than 2,000 miles.  “First Fleet” immigrants (1788) thought bringing a few rabbits to Australia for hunting would be harmless.  In less than 100 years, however, the rabbits became so prolific that they negatively impacted the ecosystem of Western Australia, and the wire fence was erected in a last-ditch effort to stop them from overwhelming the continent.

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Print by C. Eckel

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Chain link fences are woven, like sweaters.

The manufacturing of cheap, durable chain-link fences began in Norwich England in 1844, which was a natural fit for the industrialization of a textile town.  They are systematically woven, cheap and unaesthetic (if they are even noticed at all).  They permeate so much of our landscape that we hardly bother to consider them, with the possible exception of fences with a flare of barbed wire at the top.  They tell us where to go and where to stay.  They keep us safe.  They imprison us.  They exclude us.  They are personal.  They are political.

The fencing industry predicts a 4.4% growth by 2018.  More fences are coming.

My grandmother was a knitter.

I paint fences.

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