The Devil's Rope by Alan Krell
A Cultural History of Barbed Wire (Topographics)

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Barbed wire cuts across more than just property, war and politics. This most vicious tool of control has played a critical role in the modern experience, be it territorial expansion or the settlement of local and international conflicts. However, it has other histories: those constructed through image and text in the arts, media and popular culture. These representations – in painting, photography, poetry, personal memoirs, cartoons, novels, advertisements and film – have never before been critically examined. In this book, Alan Krell investigates the place barbed wire holds in the social imagination.

Invented in France in 1860, barbed wire was developed independently in the USA, where it was used to control livestock on the Great Plains, both to "keep out" and "keep in". Promoted as the Ideal Fence, barbed wire’s menacing qualities were soon made manifest. The epithet, "The Devil’s Rope", anticipated its transformation into a tool of war in the late 19th and early 20th century. Henceforth, it would become synonymous with repression. Barbed wire’s conflicting character makes it an appropriate symbol of modernity, and Krell shows how the use of this symbolism in contemporary art has given barbed wire meanings beyond the historical and political realms.

About Alan Krell

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Alan Krell is Lecturer in Art History & Theory at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. He is the author of Manet and the Painters of Contemporary Life (1996).
Published February 3, 2002 by Reaktion Books. 223 pages
Genres: History, Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

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The Guardian

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The Devil's Rope: A Cultural History Of Barbed Wire by Alan Krell 222pp, Reaktion Books, £16.95 Barbed Wire: A Political History by Oliver Razac translated by Jonathan Kneight 148pp, Profile Books, £6.99 Contemplating these works, I assessed my own barbed wire reference points.

Dec 14 2002 | Read Full Review of The Devil's Rope: A Cultural ...

Publishers Weekly

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Along the way, British art historian Krell (Manet and the Politics of Contemporary Life) does justice to the comic book renderings of barbed wire, as well as the movie Barb Wire, the Italian artist Toscani's Benetton advertisements and the Australian Jon Rose's surprisingly tuneful musical instr...

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