Barbed Wire Fence Telephone

Several thrift store-sourced telephones hang from a barbed wire fence, each separated by some distance. Wires with alligator clips connect each telephone to the fence line. Viewers who pick up the telephone receivers can use them to communicate with each other.

This work was a collaboration between Phil Peters and David Rueter. Around the turn of the century, as the Bell telephone system connected cities across the US, rural areas were mostly left out. Intrepid ranchers discovered that ad-hoc, decentralized telephone networks could be built out of simple materials at hand, using as transmission lines the vast network of barbed wire fences that covered most of the West.

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Los Angeles