500 Prison Obscura

Prison Obscura, an exhibition I curated and first showed earlier this year is making its second appearance. I’m proud to tell you it’ll be on show at Scripps College in Claremont. Specifically it’s at the Clark Humanities Museum and coordinated by the Humanities Institute. From the east coast to the west coast.

In the interests of brevity, I’ll simply reissue Scripps’ press release below. Anything you need to know about the show, the artist, the works and the curating motive you can find at the dedicated Haverford Prison Obscura website.


Prison Obscura at the Clark Humanities Museum Sheds Light on Incarceration

No country in the world incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than the United States. In fact, more than 2.2 million people are currently locked up in the U.S.—a number that has more than quadrupled since 1980. But the lives lived behind bars are often invisible to those on the outside. Prison Obscura sheds light on their experiences and the prison-industrial complex as a whole by showcasing rarely seen surveillance, evidentiary, and prisoner-made photographs.

Prison Obscura, which comes to Scripps following its successful run at the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery at Haverford College last spring, builds the case that Americans must face these images to grasp the proliferation of the U.S. prison system and to connect with those it confines. It encourages visitors to ask why tax-paying, prison-funding citizens rarely get the chance to see such images and to consider what roles such pictures play for those within the system.

Alyse Emdur’s collected letters and prison visiting- room portraits from across the nation and Robert Gumpert’s recorded audio stories from within the San Francisco jail system provide an opportunity to see, read and listen to subjects in the contexts of their incarceration. Juvenile and adult prisoners in different workshops led by Steve Davis, Mark Strandquist and Kristen S. Wilkins perform for the camera, reflect on their past, describe their memories, and represent themselves through photography. Prison Obscura moves from these intimate portrayals of life within the prison system to more expansive views of legal and spatial surveillance in such works as Josh Begley’s manipulated Google Maps’ API code and Paul Rucker’s animated videos, which offer a “celestial” view of the growth of the prison system.


Brought to Scripps College by the Humanities Institute as part of a semester of programming this fall on the theme of Silence and offered in collaboration with the Core Curriculum in Interdisciplinary Humanities, the exhibition is on view at the Clark Humanities Museum from Sept. 2 through Oct. 17.

Brook will present “Prison Silences,” a public lecture for the Humanities Institute on Oct. 2 at 4:15 p.m. in Garrison Theater at the Scripps College Performing Arts Center. A reception will follow from 5:30 to 7 p.m. inside the exhibition in the Clark Humanities Museum in the Bette Cree Edwards Humanities Building at Scripps College.



The Clark Humanities Museum is open Monday through Friday, 9-5. For more information on Prison Obscura, please contact Amy Emmert on (909) 621-8237, email humanitiesInstitute@scrippscollege.edu or visit scrippscollege.edu/hi.

Prison Obscura is a traveling exhibition curated by Pete Brook and made possible with the support of the John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities, the Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery at Haverford College, PA, and the Core Curriculum in Interdisciplinary Humanities at Scripps College, CA.

Founded in 1986, the Humanities Institute at Scripps College presents lectures, films, exhibitions, conferences, and other events each semester on a thematic topic related to the humanities. A distinctive aspect of Scripps’ program is that a select group of students participates each semester as Junior Fellows, attending events and taking part in a seminar that hosts prominent scholars, activists, and artists who contribute to the Institute’s programming. In Fall 2014, under the direction of art history professor Juliet Koss, the Humanities Institute will explore the theory and practice of silence: voluntary and coerced, solitary and communal, literal and metaphoric. In addition to Prison Obscura, public lectures, seminars, films, and performances will take place in connection with the theme of Silence and in collaboration with such signature campus programs and spaces as the Core Curriculum in Interdisciplinary Humanities, the Scripps College Academy, the Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, and the Claremont Colleges Library.

Scripps College was founded in 1926 by Ellen Browning Scripps, a pioneering philanthropist and influential figure in the worlds of education, publishing, and women’s rights. Today, Scripps is a nationally top-ranked liberal arts college and women’s college with approximately 950 students, and is a member of The Claremont Colleges in Southern California. The mission of Scripps College is to educate women to develop their intellects and talents through active participation in a community of scholars, so that as graduates they may contribute to society through public and private lives of leadership, service, integrity, and creativity.