Following my recent post of David Leventi‘s work, a reader contacted me to alert me of the potential (and presumably happenstance) development of Stateville Correctional Center, Joliet, Illinois as an art object.
Consistently through the representations of Stateville is the description of the roundhouse as one of the last remaining prisons in America adhering to the Panopticon model developed by Jeremy Bentham.
Let us be clear, the Panopticon is an outdated and abusive model for corrections; it relies on a small number controlling a large number through the threat of constant supervision. Modern correctional management must look beyond disciplinary techniques based upon spatial arrangement and look toward truly transformative (educational) engagement with prison populations.
Still one can only speculate that the roundhouse prison is of interest to artists primarily because of its “purity” of form as understood – and communicated – through the formal qualities of composition within the photographic print.
A while later, Dubois found out that Andreas Gursky had too gone to Stateville, apparently inspired by Doug and Jim’s photograph and took a picture himself (below). Gursky has admitted in his career he finds ideas for images in newspapers and other popular media. Gursky’s image put in context here, at the Brooklyn Rail.
So, this raises questions. Has Stateville prison inadvertently become a tease, and a subject for curious photographic artists?
Do the individual activities of artists have a bearing on one another? Should these images exist within the same discourse? Do photographic attentions of the 21st century have any relation to the need and stresses of current correctional politics in Illinois?
Does the ascendancy of Stateville onto gallery walls effect any significant – or measurable – impression of Stateville prison within public consciousness?
Or are Dubois, Goldberg, Gursky and Leventi just continuing an intrigue which has continued throughout the decades?