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Prison Obscura got a nice review by Carolina Miranda in the Los Angeles Times.

An excerpt from Gut-wrenching photo evidence from Brown vs. Plata in ‘Prison Obscura’:

Perhaps most gut-wrenching is the series of pictures generated as evidence for the case of Brown vs. Plata, a class-action lawsuit against the state of California, related to issues of access to medical care and serious overcrowding in the state’s prisons. The case made it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ordered California to release 46,000 inmates in order to relieve conditions.


“[Prison Obscura] is aesthetically beautiful and challenging, and it’s didactic without being patronizing,” says Juliet Koss, who is the director of the Humanities Institute at Scripps. “But it also ties into what we are doing in the Institute. The theme for the semester is ‘silence’ and this was an interesting way of exploring that: of people who have been silenced or the general silence that there is about this topic.”

An absolute honour to have the attentions of critic Carolina Miranda, whose writings and focus on the vernacular, on everyday creativity and on pursuits of beauty and meaning beyond the restrictive parameters of the art market, I have long admired.

© David Maisel, from the series Library of Dust

A new database should help infamous cremated remains find their way back into the possession of family members.

David Maisel‘s Library of Dust is well-known by now. Maisel got early access to a basement of decaying copper cans that hold the cremains of nearly 3,500 former mental institution patients who lived and died – and remained unknown and/or unclaimed – at Oregon State Psychiatric Hospital.

Maisel’s images reflected the keen interest the story garnered across the US (see Oregon’s Forgotten Hospital, Oregonian and Long-forgotten Remains of Oregon’s Mentally Ill, New York Times).

I placed Maisel’s work in the context of a longer visual history of the institution.

Last month, Oregon authorities – pushed by a committed volunteer Don Whetsell – announced a new venture to locate surviving families. The Los Angeles Times reports:

“Officials now hope that the launch this year of an online database detailing the 3,476 canisters yet to be claimed will help other relatives reunite, or unite for the first time.”


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