TOM PRATER, 2014
Hewing a Yoke is a short video essay considering the yoke as a symbol of both unity and oppression, looking at the technologies of farming and the migration of the Palatines from Germany to colonial America in the early 18th Century. During a period of research undertaken by Prater, the boundary of a land near to where the original settlements occurred was systematically documented, acre by acre, through video, sound and text.
An acre is a mutable measure of land, once a unit of labor in the Middle Ages, defined by the area typically plowable by a yoke of oxen within a day’s work. The yoke, a wooden crosspiece, has been used symbolically as both a uniting device, and in contradiction, as a sign of oppression and subservience.
Considering the founding of Germantown, NY, with the obligation of the Palatines to work off their granted passage to colonial North America by Queen Anne’s government, for the purpose of producing naval stores for the Empire’s fleet, the German refugees might be considered to have been ‘yoked’ into relieving their dire situation in their native land. Furthermore, observing the traces of the Emerald Ash Borer by their serpentine galleries, an endemic cause attributed to the effects of International trade routes, Hewing a Yoke seeks to thread questions concerning migration and boundaries, via the systematising approach to the film’s location.