Sleeping Dogs
2016

Property


Before this was my land, there was land. Before there was land, there was nothing. Yet, knowing nothing leaves me ignorant of concepts such as “my,” “this” and “land.”

Before this was his land it was their land.

“With false documents and brute force the land was extorted from them.” While the concept of ownership may be fundamentally unstable, this instability does not displace the ethical issue of rightful ownership. The two concepts are irresolvable but interconnected.

The first landowners claimed a plot, then circumscribed and protected this land. Their original claim had no foundation—We have substituted divine decree for this absence.

Law is both the means of instituting and maintaining private property.

Then there are those who occupy the fragile margin of this law. Their property is provided only so long as they are useful or invisible.

The visible claim of the squatter lays bare the primitive law of property, a law that is hidden by the map, the decree and the document. This plot is mine.

The stray dog that circles a site the size of its body. Asleep, invisible until stepped upon it bursts into flight, baring its teeth or squealing. The volatile and vulnerable claim of the sleeping dog.

This dog has no right besides its insistent occupation of space. Yet, we know that this may be wrenched from it in a moment. What is this right to be, that precedes (or exceeds) property?