Why can’t I have my ice-cream cone in my back-pocket?

Why can’t I have my ice-cream cone in my back-pocket?

Who wouldn't want to make love to an automobile? Who wouldn't be angry if (s)he was stopped from licking the head of a toad? Wouldn't it be crazy to be told by the police to carry your coins in your pockets, instead of your ears? Who wouldn't be driven mad if (s)he had to pay a fine for spitting on a seagull? And I mean.. who wouldn't feel offended for being prosecuted for carrying their violin in a paper bag? But is the punishment of the action or the action per se that is mostly weird?

This kind of questioning may sound paranoid. What is most paranoid though, is that what was just mentioned, among other statements of similar oddity, constitutes actual incentives of the American penal code. Olivia Locher, the 27 year-old sarcastic-conceptual photographer initiated some research on unusual laws and bizarre regulations across all 50 states of America. Without necessarily distinguishing between fact and myth, due to the ambiguity which is nevertheless embedded into the particular (leftovers of earlier times’) need to regulate and constrain offensive action, Locher brought together her Warholian Pop Art aesthetics and her Jodorowskian-inspired fictitious story telling, to pictorially enact these odd laws.

After going through law books, tracking the archaic background of fantastical rumours and cross-examining her various sources, Locher investigated laws like: In Kansas it is illegal to serve wine in teacups, In Nevada it is illegal to put an American flag on a bar of soap, In Texas it is illegal for children to have unusual haircuts, In South Dakota it is illegal to cause static, In Washington it is illegal to paint polka dots on the American flag, In Oregon it is illegal to test your physical endurance while driving a car on the highway, In Maine it is Unlawful to tickle women under the chin with a feather duster. Although all the laws she tracked down might now be outdated and so detached from the needs that justify their emergence (if these can ever be justified) and despite the fact that these are, most of the times, even hard to be enforced in the current context, still some of them are registered in the law books. That does not necessarily bear direct consequences for the rights of the people who might find themselves committed into activities addressed by the odd laws, but it signals quite an arbitrary yet delightfully outlandish character of the legal system -even if that is only in a discursive plan-.

What followed Olivia Locher’s investigation of the twists and transformations of the particular laws and her research on which of them are factual or fictional -yet actualised and reaffirmed by the widespread paranoia-, is her project called “I Fought the Law”. That includes 50 (on of each American state) pictorial enactments of the addressed prohibitions, through her blithe, candy-coloured photographic style. Her cutting-edge irony, her whimsical framing and the cheery  insanity that characterises her series, may not only count as a critical commentary on the American penal system but it may even be considered as an iconic tale, aiming to bring attention to the blurred line between actual and believed truths.

The 10 pictures that are presented, are named according to order as following:

  1. In Alabama it is illegal to have an ice-cream cone in your back pocket
  2. In Ohio it is illegal to disrobe in front of a man’s portrait
  3. In Pennsylvania it is illegal to tie a dollar bill to a string and pull it away when someone tries to pick it up
  4. In California it is illegal to ride a bicycle in a swimming pool
  5. In Michigan it is illegal to paint sparrows to sell them as parakeets
  6. In Missouri it is illegal to deface a milk carton
  7. In Delaware it is illegal to serve perfume as liquor
  8. In Kentucky it is illegal to paint your lawn red
  9. In Hawaii it is illegal to place coins in your ear
  10. In Florida it is illegal to appear in public clothed in liquid latex

All pictures are taken from Olivia Locher’s book “I Fought the Law”. No right infringement intended.

Written and curated by Marianna Serveta