Rana Sharif Annotations

In response to:

How does your eye move around the image? Where did you first focus, where does your gaze end up?

Thursday, December 6, 2018 - 9:33pm

Interestingly enough, the freeway was least significant as a visual focal point. To me, the structure of the fence, the trees, and the blue skies factored more prominently than the freeway. The centrality of the freeway to this ethnographic site came more from Ariel’s descriptive summary and not initially from the image itself. My gaze initially gravitated upward towards the iron fence. It reminded me of prison barbed wire, the U.S.-Mexico border[lands], and my own work in Palestine-Israel. The fence as a marker of separation, figurative and literal, captured my attention more so than the freeway beneath it- despite the fact that the freeway itself acts as a separator as well. The perspective from the lens makes it such that the freeway exists at a distance, evoking a form of detachment from the position of the viewer. Thus, the fence obstructs and somehow limits the ultimate (visual) toxicity resulting from the freeway below. It perhaps guards the freeway. After the iron fence, my initial views focused on the surrounding trees, again, they too, act as deflectors from the freeway. The trees produce an environmental counter-narrative that is only challenged by the pollutants resulting from the toxins released into the air and soil. The trees offer an aesthetic to the toxicity that, at least ostensibly, lessen the environmental harms. Like the trees, another natural backdrop is the bright blue, Southern California sky that overwhelms the image. Its perfected hues of blue obscure the invisible toxins weighing its atmospheric layers. The fence, the trees, and the sky work to make distant the freeway. It does nothing. In fact, offers a solution, a livelihood connecting folks from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’. Almost banal.

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What concepts can you derive from this image?

Thursday, December 6, 2018 - 9:08pm

Particularly interesting is locating what Ariel calls the "intimate ways freeways normalize specific daily activity." While not factoring prominently in any spectacular form, the can of "Steel Reserve" appears to be suspended in time over the constant motion below. The can may initially be seen as a discarded piece of trash, revealing an environmental toxicity (trash) juxtaposed against another environmental toxicity (pollution, land expropriation). But, the can may also reveal something less spectacular and more intimate. It may be an artifact of suspended time; of leisurely time perhaps. While not diminishing it as a piece of trash and as such its environmental consequences, the can may also narrate an affect where the can, the overpass, and the freeway beneath serve as a stolen moment in time for a passerby. Like Ariel, who took the photograph while walking his dog, a passerby may have taken a stroll to enjoy a moment suspended above the 210 freeway. The humming sounds of the cars moving below may drown out many demands of daily life. The malt liquor could possibly be seen then as a stolen moment in an otherwise fleeting temporality. This moment however, is confronted by the concrete structures, land expropriation, and pollution resulting from the freeway. The moment of leisure obscures the toxicity of the location. The passerby while decompressing from the everyday must do so at the expense of an environmental hazard.

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