Life on Skid Row

Article written by Joanne Kerrigan

Sixteen years ago, Ariella Pahlke moved out of her small Canadian city, Halifax, into a nearby rural community. With work and friends still in the city, the filmmaker began a routine of regular commuting on a route that offered not much variety in scenery. But something on the road itself began to catch her eye – long, black trails of rubber. “I started to notice the marks,” she recalls. “Then I started to really notice them. I had favourites, they would fade, new ones would appear.”

Pahlke began to ask her neighbours about the marks, and learnt they were known as burnouts, produced by accelerating a vehicle while the brakes are engaged. As ominous as they are black, skid marks can often denote some terrifying calamity or near-miss, a signal of hair-raising danger more effective than any erected road sign possibly could be. But for Pahlke, the sense of peril of these streaks of rubber was secondary. She saw them more as a deliberate expression, a creation of drivers engaging in a basic human drive to leave a mark.

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