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I was astounded when a press release (copied below) hit my inbox. Currently, private prison corporations have no legal requirement to provide the same types and amount of information that the public and journalists can demand of state and federal prisons!

A new law looks to correct this disparity.

Last week, U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) reintroduced the Private Prison Information Act (PPIA) in Congress. The bill, HR 5838, requires non-federal correctional and detention facilities that house federal prisoners to comply with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The Human Rights Defense Center made the following press release last week:

Private Prison Information Act Reintroduced in Congress, to Ensure Public Accountability at Privately-Operated Prisons

Currently, private companies such as Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group are not required to comply with FOIA requests even when they operate facilities that hold federal prisoners through contracts with federal agencies, and are paid with public taxpayer funds. This includes privately-operated facilities that house immigration detainees.

Alex Friedmann, associate director of the Human Rights Defense Center, and Christopher Petrella, a doctoral student at UC Berkeley, have worked closely with Rep. Jackson Lee’s staff over the past two years to reintroduce the PPIA during the 113th Congress.

Various versions of the PPIA have been introduced since 2005; however, private prison firms and their supporters have lobbied against the bills. For example, CCA’s federal lobbying disclosure statements have specifically referenced lobbying related to the PPIA.

Friedmann and Petrella argue that because private prison corporations rely almost entirely on taxpayer funds, and perform the inherently governmental function of incarceration, the public has a right to obtain information pertaining to private prison operations. In short, the government should not be able to contract away the public’s right to know through FOIA requests.

Friedmann testified before the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security in June 2008 in support of a previous version of the Private Prison Information Act.

A coalition of 34 criminal justice, civil rights and public interest organizations submitted a joint letter to Rep. Jackson Lee in December 2012, followed by a renewed letter on June 11, 2014, expressing support for the PPIA and encouraging her to reintroduce the bill.

The letter noted that “If private prison companies like CCA and GEO would like to continue to enjoy taxpayer-funded federal contracts, then they must be required to adhere to the same disclosure laws applicable to their public counterparts, including FOIA.”

The signatories to the joint letter included the Center for Constitutional Rights, Center for Media Justice, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, Florida Justice Institute, Grassroots Leadership, Enlace, In the Public Interest, National CURE and FedCURE, Justice Policy Institute, Justice Strategies, Prison Policy Initiative, Private Corrections Institute, Southern Center for Human Rights, The Sentencing Project, Southern Poverty Law Center and Texas Civil Rights Project. The NAACP has also voiced support for the PPIA.

“This bill is about public accountability – to ensure that for-profit prison corporations, which assume the role of the government when incarcerating federal prisoners, must comply with the same Freedom of Information Act obligations as federal agencies such as the Bureau of Prisons,” said Friedmann. “That is only fair and reasonable, but private prison companies will most likely object to the bill, as they favor secrecy over fairness.”

“The introduction of the Private Prison Information Act constitutes just the first step in bringing transparency and accountability to an industry that’s funded almost entirely by your and my tax dollars,” Petrella added. “We’ll continue to work tirelessly until this bill is brought to fruition.”

For more information:

Visit the Private Prison Information Act website.

Alex Friedmann
Associate Director, Human Rights Defense Center
(615) 495-6568
afriedmann@prisonlegalnews.org

Christopher Petrella
(860) 341-1684
christopherfrancispetrella@gmail.com

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Untitled by Derrick Quintero and Ann Catherine Carter. From the “Surrogate Project”

WHAT

This week, apexart announced the three winners of its Unsolicited Proposal Program. One of the selected projects was Life After Death and Elsewhere, organized by Tom Williams and Robin Paris.

WHO

Artist and educators, Paris and Williams coordinate the best prison arts program I’ve never written about.

They work in tandem with prisoners on death row in Tennessee. The Riverbend Maximum Security Institution imprisons 79 people on death row. Eleven prisoners — Abu Ali Abdur’Rahman, G’dongalay Berry, Tyrone Chalmers, Gary Cone, John Freeland, Kennath Artez Henderson, Nikolaus Johnson, Donald Middlebrooks, Harold Wayne Nichols, and Derrick Quintero among them — have worked with Paris and Williams on a few projects. I have admired their practice for a long time.

I’d be embarrassed about bringing their work to you when they are already so far down their creative paths if I didn’t think they still had long and beautiful journeys planned out.

You can see a lot of their work, stretching back 18-months, on the R.E.A.C.H. Coalition blog.

WHERE

Earlier this year, in Nashville TN, in collaboration with artists from Watkins College of Art they produced the exhibition Unit 2 (part 1) from which several of the images included herein originated. Recently, they completed Unit 2 (part 3). In both cases they partnered with small local galleries to put on the events.

PHOTOGRAPHY’S USE

Photos feature heavily in the collaborations between the condemned men and outside artists. For the series “Add-Ons” an outside artist would provide a prompt in the form of a drawing or piece of writing but often an image. The prisoner would then add to it by either drawing or writing directly on the print, or riffing off of it in words and sketches to create a second companion piece.

For the series “Surrogate” a prisoner would make a request for someone on the outside to do something for them by proxy — to enjoy a library full of books, to eat a hearty breakfast prepared to precise specifications, or to make a family portrait. In many cases the evidence and *shared experience* was documentation usually in the form of a photo.

AN ADVOCATE’S MESSAGE

While the process in producing these works is necessarily personal and intimate, the sharing of the artwork and the political urgency needn’t be. Paris, Williams et al. want to use exhibitions as moments for discussion and public education. Namely, they want to contribute to the anti-death penalty movement. As Paris told Hyperallergic, “The system of legal defense for capital cases is shoddy and poorly funded at best; there are no rich people, to my knowledge, on death row. We incarcerate more of our population than any other country. I could go on and on. It’s shameful. It’s not who we think we are as a country.”

PROPOSAL

This isn’t prison fetishism. The men on death row alongside the artists and students corralled by Paris and Williams are collaborators in the fullest sense. I think it is significant that the winning proposal was written by the prisoners; I think it may have been a deciding factor for the judges on the quality, intent and pedagogy of the art.

The prisoner-artists’ proposal reads:

During the past year, the state of Tennessee has staged a nearly unprecedented offensive against those individuals it has sentenced to die. A state that has executed only six people since 1960 has recently scheduled ten executions. As prisoners on death row, and imminent victims of that state-sponsored violence, we represent the “bare life” described so powerfully by historians and philosophers. During the past two years, however, through an unusual partnership with artists, writers, and educators in Nashville, we have endeavored to make our circumstances visible to those beyond the walls of prison. Through published writings and art exhibitions, we have addressed a public that knows as little of our lives as they do of the indignities of belly chains or the menacing shimmer of razor wire.

Our past exhibitions have often included collaborations with artists and art students on the outside. We have created “add-on” drawings (exquisite corpses, more or less) with people beyond the prison, and we have started sketchbooks before sending them out for strangers to finish. We have composed “surrogate” assignments for outsiders to realize (photographs of the stars, for instance, which some of us haven’t seen in 25 years, or the libraries in cities that we will never visit). We have made gifts of our art works and offered them to visitors to the opening of an exhibition in exchange for their photographic portraits. In one show, we exhibited a diorama that traces the all-too-common path from poverty to prison, and in other, we exhibited our personal snapshots and family photos to offer the world a glimpse of our social lives and to show that we are more than prisoners and men condemned to death

In response to your call, we propose an exhibition that will feature designs for our own memorials alongside our representations of the lives we would pursue if we were free. We have all been condemned to death, and the state of Tennessee intends to kill us, but some of are innocent, and we all hope to demonstrate that we are more than the sum of our worst deeds—or that we might be.

The works we will submit will include drawings, paintings, photographs, models, and text-based pieces. Some of us will submit statements outlining reasons for refusing to design their own memorials.

Kudos to them and all involved. Hope to be in NYC when it shows! Robin Paris and I are currently in conversation and I hope to share that back-and-forth with you in the future, but until then, I’d like to use this recent success as an excuse to share some images of the prisoners’ work.

Images courtesy of Guardian, Hyperallergic, Solitary Watch.

photo_with_drawing
Upreyl Mitchell and Harold Wayne Nichols, “Untitled” (add-on artwork), acrylic and colored pencil on photograph, 13″ x 9″ in (photo courtesy Robin Paris)
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Mika Agari, Jessica Clay, Amy Clutter, Robert Grand, Kristi Hargrove, Robin Paris, Sharon Stewart, Tom Williams, Weng Tze Yang, and Barbara Yontz, “Surrogate Project for Harold Wayne Nichols: Breakfast for Dinner,” photograph.
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Donald Middlebrooks, ‘Silence is Compliance’ (acrylic on canvas board)
The-Night-Sky-001
‘The Night Sky’ by Robin Paris and Tom Williams with writing by Gary Cone, Harold Wayne Nichols, and Donald Middlebrooks. From the Surrogate Project
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Nickolus Johnson and Zack Rafuls, “Untitled” (add-on drawing), mixed media on paper, 14 x 11 in.
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Photograph and drawing, by Upreyl Mitchell and Kennath Artez Henderson. From the Surrogate Project.

ARTISTS

Robin Paris is associate professor and chair of the Department of Photography at Watkins College of Art, Design & Film in Nashville, Tennessee. She is a graduate of The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, and the Savannah College of Art and Design, and she has taught at Belmont University and The University of the South, Sewanee. Her work has appeared in exhibitions throughout the country. She has been co-facilitating the art workshop in Unit 2 (the Death Row unit) of the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution since 2013. Her recent work has involved collaborations with its residents.

Tom Williams is assistant professor of art history at Watkins College of Art, Design & Film in Nashville, Tennessee. He is a graduate of Stony Brook University and the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program, and he has taught at the School of Visual Arts, the Museum of Modern Art, New York University, and Vanderbilt University. His writings have appeared in Art in America, Grey Room, and other publications. He has been co-facilitating the art workshop in Unit 2 (the Death Row unit) of the Riverbend Maximum Security Institution since 2013.

APEXART

apexart is a non-profit arts organization in Lower Manhattan that was conceived to offer opportunities to independent curators and emerging and established artists, as well as to challenge ideas about art, its practice and curation. apex art is at  291 Church Street, New York, NY 10013 USA and it puts on exhibitions, Fellowship Program, publications, and public programs. It is free. Contact is 212 431 5270 or info@apexart.org. Hours are Tues – Sat 11am-6pm.

UNSOLICITED PROPOSAL PROGRAM

Anyone, from anywhere, may submit an idea-based exhibition to the Unsolicited Proposal Program. Each annum, three winning proposals are presented at apexart as part of its year-long calendar. Proposals remain anonymous and judged by an international group of 100+ artists, curators, writers and arts professionals. Each juror reads at least 50 proposals, in randomized order. Each proposal receives as many as 25 votes.

“We believe it is the most objective and fair process of evaluation that we have found,” says apexart. “Submissions are reviewed anonymously and solely on the strength of their idea. Previous curatorial experience is in no way required. Supplemental materials are not accepted to further level the playing field.”

The eventual ranking of proposals is made available online to all applicants.

CHunnicutt

Carnell Hunnicutt, Sr. Northern Correctional Institution, Somers, CT. Courtesy Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility. Via Solitary Watch.

Today, December 10th, is Human Rights Day. Organised by the United Nations, the day of action is based around the central tenet that “Each one of us, everywhere, at all times is entitled to the full range of human rights. Human rights belong equally to each of us and bind us together as a global community with the same ideals and values.”

As Prison Legal News and the Human Rights Defense Center recently pointed out:

The UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights contains several articles which would apply broadly to prisoners and former prisoners in the U.S., but unfortunately remain unrecognized by the U.S. government.”

Specifically, we should be looking at the enforcement of policy and law as they would uphold Articles 4, 8, 9 and 21.

The problems are endless. Executions need to stop — the state shouldn’t be murdering citizens. Mass incarceration, generally, brings with it almost insurmountable problems (overcrowding, inadequate healthcare, predation, sexual and psychological abuse). The prison industrial complex magnifies these problems in poor communities. I’ve noticed a cycle of issues-du-jour that append to critique of American prisons. Most recently, no doubt, the issue of solitary confinement has been widely discussed. Why? Because it is abusive and counter-productive. Moves in the right direction are starting to reign in the rampant use of solitary as a disciplining technique. I wrote about what’s at stake for Daylight Digital last year:

Juan E. Méndez, United Nations special rapporteur on torture, is clear that solitary confinement is torture and permanently damages the mental health of prisoners.

“Segregation, isolation, separation, cellular, lockdown, Supermax, the hole, Secure Housing Unit…whatever the name, solitary confinement should be banned by States as a punishment or extortion technique,” said Mendez in front of the UN General Assembly in June 2011. “It is a harsh measure which is contrary to rehabilitation, the aim of the penitentiary system.”

Prisoners lose their minds quickly when deprived of human contact. Identity is socially created, and it is through relationships that individuals understand themselves.

Solitary confinement “undermines your ability to register and regulate emotion,” explained Craig Haney, psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, in an interview with WIRED. “The appropriateness of what you’re thinking and feeling is difficult to index, because we’re so dependent on contact with others for that feedback. And for some people, it becomes a struggle to maintain sanity.”

Common symptoms resulting from long-term isolation include chronic apathy, lethargy, depression, and despair. In extreme cases, prisoners may literally stop behaving and become essentially catatonic.

If a prisoner doesn’t withdraw within him or herself, he or she may resort to aggression. In his study of Pelican Bay SHU prisoners, Haney found that nearly 90 percent had difficulties with irrational anger, compared with just 3 percent of the general US population.

Physician Atul Gawande has compared the permanent psychological impairment described in Haney’s research to that incurred by traumatic brain injury.

For many, calendar days such as these serve to raise brief awareness. Often not much more. In our busy lives it can be hard to stay on top of the ebb and flow of politics, policy and information; it’s tough to hold those in power accountable, especially if day-to-day we’re just trying to get the bare minimum done.

I don’t know what I think of e-petitions as I don’t know how to gauge their efficacy, but I do know it takes seconds to sign one and you can do it after the kids are in bed and the washing up’s drying.

Thanks to Prisoner Activist for this comprehensive list of 22 active petitions against solitary confinement.

ACLU: Stop the Abuse of Solitary!

ACLU Action: Allow UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Access to Solitary Confinement in U.S. Prisons

ACLU Action: A Mother’s Plea: Stop Solitary Confinement of Children

ACLU of Arizona: Arizona is Maxed Out! No New Supermax Prison Beds

American Friends Service Committee (AFSC): Stop Abuse of
Solitary Confinement

Amnesty International: US super-maximum security prisons must be opened up for UN scrutiny!

Amnesty International USA: Free Albert Woodfox – End the Injustice. Remove Woodfox from Isolation

Amnesty International USA: Solitary Confinement: US Government Must End This Cruel and Inhumane Practice

Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB): Demand the State of California Stop the Torture

Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR): Honor the Pelican Bay SHU Prisoners’ Demands

Free Zulu Movement: Please examine the case of Kenny Zulu Whitmore, held in solitary confinement for 35 years in Louisiana State Prison

Friends Committee on Legislation of California: Stop the abuse of solitary confinement

National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT): End Prolonged Solitary Confinement Now

National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT): Take Action to End Solitary Confinement of Youth in California

National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT): People of Faith Support Solitary Confinement Study and Reform Act of 2014

New York City Jails Action Coalition (JAC) Says: End Solitary Confinement; No Supermax at Rikers

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition: Support Pelican Bay SHU Prisoners’ Five Core Demands (hunger strike)

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition: Corcoran SHU Prisoners Start Hunger Strike for Decent Healthcare

Roots Action: End prolonged solitary confinement

Shut Down Logan River: Logan River Academy – Stop using solitary confinement a.k.a. “Precaution,” and “Development,” on kids

Sylvia Rivera Law Project: DOCCS, Make Housing Safer for Trans People in New York State Prisons!

The Petition Site: End Child Torture: Stop Holding Our Kids in Solitary Confinement!

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Image: White Construction.

SMALL STEPS TO A BIG PROBLEM

If we’re ever wondering how and when we transformed into a society supporting a Prison Industrial Complex, then we can and should look to events in Karnes County, Texas this week.

Playing out in Karnes Co. this week is a scene that we’ve seen thousands of times before. And ultimately, we’ll see a decision to build or not to build.

For every one of the 6,000+ prisons in America (Federal penitentiaries, State prisons, County Jails, private prisons and ICE detention facilities) there has been a process of planning, discussion, budgeting and approval. The degree to which these political mechanics are visible and accessible to the public and the degrees to which public are aware or activated for and against prison in their earliest proposal stages, of course, differs wildly. But, I want to make the point here that prisons don’t simply emerge as a natural consequence of crime. Prisons are buildings with construction and operating costs. Prisons are places of labor and sites of capital. Prisons are designed and they are manufactured by men who want to assume some type of responsibility for them.

PRISONS FOR IMMIGRANTS IS A BOOMING BUSINESS

I argue that GEO’s motive, in Karnes Co., for assuming the responsibility of an expand family detention facility is profit. This autumn, GEO Group stock hit a 52-week high.

The GEO Group, a corporation with a long history of poorly-run facilities and abuse of prisoners on its watch stands to benefit most from the proposed expansion of the facility from 532 women and children to more than 1,300.

Watch Karnes Co. this week, because it is in its Commissioners’ offices that the absolute decision by some humans to put more humans behind chain-link and razor-wire will be made.

Watch Karnes Co. this week because this is one of thousands of current battle sites in the nation, right now, in which activists are intervening and slowing or stopping our insane march toward incarceration.

Watch Karnes Co. this week because those opposing the expansion are true American heroes.

Watch Karnes Co. this week because not since WWII internment has the United States put so many non-criminal women and children behind bars.

According to local channel KSAT, opinions are split, but in the VT those in favour were making simple arguments based upon the jobs the GEO prison would bring. Opposing views are nuanced and based in a broader and ethical perspectives.

When the family prison opened in 2012, NPR did its best to distinguish it from other places by describing it as “less like prison.” Well, such a *new dawn* and such an enlightened approach to the sick practice of looking up women and children has not yielded results. This new type of prison, apparently, leads to a bigger prison and not *a solution* to the perceived problem!

WHAT TO DO

Read up about the case.

If you’re concerned sign the petition. Your letter will go directly to the Karnes County Commissioners.

Watch a 30-minute documentary about the Karnes facility. Here’s the trailer.

If you would like to show the film in your commnunity, email tuff@grassrootsleadership.org

PETITION

Again, please, sign the petition.

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Journalist D. Brian Burghart of the Reno News & Review was aghast to discover that there is no national database about the killing of citizens by law enforcement.

As a result, he decided to make one. With our help. Burghart explains his reason to Gawker:

The biggest thing I’ve taken away from this project is something I’ll never be able to prove, but I’m convinced to my core: The lack of such a database is intentional. No government—not the federal government, and not the thousands of municipalities that give their police forces license to use deadly force—wants you to know how many people it kills and why.

It’s the only conclusion that can be drawn from the evidence. What evidence? In attempting to collect this information, I was lied to and delayed by the FBI, even when I was only trying to find out the addresses of police departments to make public records requests. The government collects millions of bits of data annually about law enforcement in its Uniform Crime Report, but it doesn’t collect information about the most consequential act a law enforcer can do.

How do you help?

Go to www.fatalencounters.org.

Research one of the listed shootings, fill out the row, and change its background color. It’ll take you about 25 minutes. There are thousands to choose from, and another 2,000 or so on Burghart’s cloud drive that he haven’t even added yet.

After your additions, Burghart will fact-check and fill in the cracks. Your contribution will be added to largest database about police violence in the country. Check out what has been collected about your locale’s information here.

Fatal Encounters can be found here, and is on Twitter at @FatalEncounters.

Goodman, Ronnie1

© Ronnie Goodman

ARTS AND RECIDIVISM

“Evidence suggests that arts-in-prisons programs lower recidivism (returning to prisons) by 27% and reduce disciplinary actions by 75%,” reads the press release for the prison art exhibition The Cell and the Sanctuary: Art and Incarceration currently on show at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History (SCMAH).

That’s a bold claim.

One of the great difficulties with justifying arts and/or liberal arts education is the difficulty in measuring its direct (positive) effects. Evaluation in budget-constrained prison systems is especially demanding and cynical. First and foremost, people want to know if any type of program steers a prisoner away from anti-social behaviour. If the answer is complex, partly elusive or complicated by other criteria then doubt descends, the enterprise is labeled as airy-fairy, and premise is dismissed.

In brief, prison arts programs wanting to prove themselves have a tough audience.

The effects of arts and education is difficult to track because many benefits such as relative thinking, critical engagement outside of institutional narratives, cumulative learning, etc. take years. Education is a slow build. Benefits are for years down the line; for a lifetime. Also, many prisoners are on long sentences and the primary criteria corrections departments and researchers look to – recidivism – can only be measured once a prisoner is released. The intangibles of a liberal arts education aren’t necessarily contributing to a measurable impact the next hour.

A general aura of skepticism surrounding arts and liberal arts education is compounded by the fact that research money often goes toward other prison programming (vocational, prison industries) and other evaluation first. We saw this was the case when the State of California stripped the DOC of its Arts-In-Corrections funding 7-years ago. In times of crisis, arts funding is first on the chopping block.

Despite no state funding, groups such as the William James Association continued, driven by volunteer efforts. The recent California budget has put millions back into the coffers earmarked for Arts-In-Corrections. The William James Association has returned to work in 11 state prisons.

The return was helped by the convincing results of a study, California Prison Arts Evaluation 2014, that was commissioned jointly by the William James Association and the California Lawyers for the Arts. You can download it here.

Here’s the results of the study and reason for bold claims.

The California Prison Arts Evaluation 2014 was a one-year study in four prisons revealing that arts programs improve prisoners’ behavior and their attitudes about themselves.

“A significant majority of  inmates attribute their greater confidence and self-discipline to pursue other academic and vocational opportunities to their participation in arts programs, signaling a pathway for overall personal growth,” says the William James Association.

 A BRIEF HISTORY OF RESEARCH

The author was Dr. Lawrence Brewster of the University of San Francisco who had, in 2012, completed a Qualitative Study of the California Arts In Corrections Program.

Prior to these two studies, there had been little research since a cost-benefit study in 1983, An Evaluation of the Arts-in-Corrections Program of the California Department of Corrections (also conducted by Brewster), which posited that society and the institutions benefited by reduced disciplinary actions, community service and beautification of the prisons.

It was high time someone brought the research up to date and dampened down naysayers and skeptics. Hopefully, the California Prison Arts Evaluation 2014 might spur other states to make a return to arts programming.

“Arts-in-prisons programs improve relationships between people within the prison as well as with guards and supervisory staff,” says the William James Association.” Prisoners exposed to arts programs are more likely to adjust to life outside prison and are less likely to become repeat offenders.”

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‘Blind Curve’ (2010) © Felix Lucero

Goodman, Ronnie - Lower Yard

‘Lower Yard, San Quentin’ @ Ronnie Goodman

Goodman, Ronnie - Baseball at old Folsom Prison

‘Baseball at Old Folsom Prison’ @ Ronnie Goodman

Evans, Justus

© Justus Evans

Kissman, Rolf - Obscuring_Self_body

‘Obscuring Self’ © Rolf Kissman

Goodman, Ronnie - Life As Lived- Jazz at San Quentin

‘Jazz In San Quentin’ @ Ronnie Goodman

Goodman, Ronnie - UpHill Struggle

‘Uphill Struggle’ @ Ronnie Goodman

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The Cell & The Sanctuary opening, Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, November 7th, 2014. Photo: Laurie Brooks / William James Association

Goodman, Ronnie - Prison Boots (2008)

‘Prison Boots’ @ Ronnie Goodman

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Installation view of The Cell & The Sanctuary, Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History. Photo: Laurie Brooks / William James Association

Santa Cruz

THE CELL AND THE SANCTUARY

The Cell and The Sanctuary features paintings, drawings, sculptures and writings by teachers, artists and organizations who are “working together within the prison system to provide a direct link between incarcerated individuals and something larger than their dehumanizing cells,” says SCMAH.

Artists including Ronnie Goodman, Justus Evans, Felix Lucero and Rolf Kissman (whose works are included in this post) are in the exhibition, as well as Ned Axthelm, Peter Bergne, Guillermo Willie, Stan Bey, Khalifah Christensen, Dennis Crookes, Isiah Daniels, Bruce Fowler, Henry Frank, Roy Gilstrap, Thomas Grider, Gary Harrell, Amy M. Ho, John Hoskings, David Johnson, Ben Jones, Richard Kamler, Chung Kao, Darryl Kennedy, Katya McCollah, Pat Messy, Omid Mokri, Gerald Morgan, Carol Newborg, Stan Newborg, James Norton, Eric “Phil” Phillips, Anthony Marco Ramirez, Adrienne Skye Roberts, Mark Stanley, Fred Tinsley, Tan Tran, Kurt Von Staden, Geno Washington, Michael Williams, Thomas Winfrey, and Noah Wright

The Cell and the Sanctuary: Art and Incarceration is produced in collaboration with Barrios Unidos and the William James Association (also on Facebook)

It is on show November 7, 2014 – February 22, 2015

Lucero, Felix -Senseless

Senseless © Felix Lucero

LifeInPrison

“Life in Prison: Artists Bear Witness”

Thursday, November 13, 2014 – 6:00pm – 8:00pm

MIST Harlem – 46 W 116th St, New York, NY 10026

LINK

The Institute for Research in African-American Studies (IRAAS) at Columbia University and OF NOTE, the award-winning arts & activism magazine, hosts a conversation with three dynamic artists who use their creative voice to examine the complex experiences, both personal and political, faced by the two million men, women, and youth currently imprisoned in the United States. Via theatre, photography, and video, these artists, Samara Gaev, Russell Frederick, and Lori Waselchuk illuminate the ways in which our society treats those within our prison systems with compelling work that engages and troubles our notions
of ‘justice.’

Panelists:

Grace Aneiza Ali is founder and editorial director of OF NOTE Magazine
, one of the first online magazines focused on global artists using the arts as catalysts for activism and social change. In 2014, she received the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Curatorial Fellowship in partnership with Aljira, A Center for Contemporary Art for the upcoming exhibition, “Guyana Modern,” which will feature a new generation of photographers from Guyana and its major diasporic communities in New York, London and Toronto. She’s an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at The City College of New York, CUNY and the recipient of the “Outstanding Faculty of the Year” award for 2013-2014. Grace is also World Economic Forum Global Shaper and a Fulbright Scholar.

Russell Frederick is a self-taught Brooklyn-born photographer of Panamanian heritage. He is the recipient of grants from the Open Society Foundation, New York Foundation of the Arts, Brooklyn Arts Council and the Urban Artist Initiative Foundation. Frederick is a member of the African-American photo collective Kamoinge and is represented by KEYSTONE photo agency in Switzerland. As an educator, he dedicates time to mentoring at-risk young men with the Kings Against Violence Initiative as the Men’s Program Director.

Samara Gaev is the founder and artistic director of Truthworker Theatre Company, a social justice based hip-hop theatre company for high school and college-aged youth in NYC. Its recent original productions include “BAR CODE,” a performative analysis of the school to prison pipeline, and “IN|PRISM: Boxed In & Blacked Out in America,” which examines the practice of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons.

Lori Waselchuk, is a Philadelphia-based visual storyteller. Her award-winning photographic documentary “Grace Before Dying,” which chronicles the prisoner-run hospice program at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, in Angola, LA, aims to challenge stereotypes about people that are imprisoned and offers a compassionate perspective into an environment designed to isolate and punish.

Moderator:


Samuel K. Roberts
, Columbia University. 
Director, Institute for Research in African American Studies, and Associate Professor of History & Sociomedical Sciences.

Spike Aston
Photo: Spike Aston

Photography is often best kept simple. Likewise, the description of photography is, also, best kept simple. So let’s do that.

Disposable is a photography project that puts cameras in the hands of a dozen or so homeless men and women in London, England. Very straightforward. Disposable garners images that have given – in their production – moments to create and reflect, and – in their viewing – moments for reflection upon creative practices toward a more equal society. Right? What use is this post, and what use the participants’ efforts, and what use the program coordination efforts of Adele Watts if we’re not to reflect on the issues of poverty and homelessness in our society?

Disposable began in 2012. Disposable is grassroots. The men and women involved consider themselves a collective.

Watts worked closely with homeless artists over the period of a year and developed a body of original photographs.

“Without a brief, each participant took single-use cameras away, returning them a couple of weeks later to be developed and to look though the work and discuss it together,” explains Watts.

“Photography is a science of seeing. I like to see ordinary things too because they can tell you a lot about where you are if you don’t know. You can discover many beautiful and interesting worlds that don’t seem like worlds without photography,” says participant Spike Aston.

In the past 18 months, Disposable has mounted three exhibitions — at a Central London outreach venue in April 2013, and later at Four Corners Gallery, Bethnal Green in October 2013 and Ziferblat, Shoreditch in August 2014.

Disposable allows us to view homelessness from the rich and insightful perspective of those experiencing it, but does so with refreshing subtlety. This is achieved through a belief in cultivating authorial voice and expression without exception, which is truly at the heart of the project and all those who have brought it to life,” says Claire Hewitt who provides texts for the Disposable newsprint publication. “I was overwhelmed by the ways in which they had each nurtured their own visual languages.”

A collection of photographic works by Bill Wood, R.O.L and Spike Aston, Disposable’s most devoted members — has now been brought together in a 16-page newspaper publication.

The Disposable newsprint publication is available as an insert to the latest issue of Uncertain States a lens-based broadsheet. It is distributed through and available at: Brighton Photo Biennial 2014, V&A London, Tate Britain, Four Corners Gallery, Ikon Gallery & Library of Birmingham, Flowers East, Turner Contemporary, Margate.

Keep in touch with the project via Adele Watts’ website and Twitter, and the Disposable Tumblr.

Bill Wood

Photo: Bill Wood
Bill Wood
Photo: Bill Wood
R.O.L.
Photo: R.O.L.
R.O.L.
Photo: R.O.L.
R.O.L.
Photo: R.O.L.
Spike Aston
Photo: Spike Aston
Spike Aston
Photo: Spike Aston
Spike Aston
Photo: Spike Aston
Disposable Newsprint
Disposable Insert. ​Uncertain States. Open Call. Issue 20

Disposable
Edition of 5000 copies
290mm x 370mm
16 pages printed full colour on 52gsm recycled newsprint. Inserted into Uncertain States Issue 20, a lens-based broadsheet.
Photographic works by Bill Wood, R.O.L & Spike Aston.
Texts by Clare Hewitt & Jenna Roberts.
Edited by Adele Watts.

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