Saturday, 3 March 2018

hark! a vagrant

We appreciated finding out about the long-term art project of Jenny Polak that makes the complacent classes perhaps take more notice of those in precarious situations—especially migrants who live in terror constantly that an immigration officer might bash the doors in and rip their family asunder. Like a floor-plan outlining a fire escape route, Polak’s series of posters tip people off on which paths to avoid during an ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raid and struck us as the sociological and marginalised heir to the system of subtle markers that vagrants (hobos) developed in the late eighteen-hundreds to cope with the harshness of their existence and perhaps make the way less treacherous for those that follow.
Vagabonds (and perhaps those under the threat of deportation have done the same) contrived a vocabulary of symbols and signs to help orientate fellow travellers. For instance, a triangle with hands warned of a homeowner with a gun, interlocking circles represent handcuffs and the expectation to be arrested for vagrancy, a top-hat signifies a wealthy family and a picture of a cat meant that there was a kindly woman around these parts. I wonder if we might not advance a whole system of signs pointing to helpers to guide our imperilled community members, whatever their conferred status.