Just a notice if you are free tonight to watch the PBS broadcast of Herman’s House tonight at 10:00 PM EST. I have been in touch with the directors and producers of this film and they are completely committed to exposing the conditions of our spaces of incarceration. They do so by telling the story of Herman Wallace who has been kept in solitary confinement for 40 years in a 6×9 foot cell as he envisions what his dream home would look like with artist Jackie Sumell. It shows how imagining space can provide those in horrific conditions some feeling of agency in their lives and healing . It is a powerful example I intend to use in my own work to prove the impact of design beyond just the physical. I hope you will be able to watch it and share your thoughts here and with others.
If we are to understand the full scope of the Prison Industrial Complex with regards to space and design we must be able to see it. In my experience thus far digital cameras, video and recording devices of any kind are hard to get in never mind physical access to the spaces themselves. How can we seek to re-invision and diminish the existence of these spaces if we cannot use the power of images to convey our message?
This week I was sitting with Brad Grant, the director of Howard University’s School of Architecture discussing a recent award Barb Toews and I have received from the Fetzer Institute. The award will help us to build a stakeholder group around our development of toolkit that would help those working and living in incarcerated spaces to re-envision them for restorative justice rather than punishment. He expressed Fetzers interest in having marketable images of this exemplar to use in their promotional materials, presentations and exhibits. I felt frustrated since I knew how challenging this would be for us but was hopeful when I returned to my office to see a link to the Prison Photography website and Katherine Fontaine’s recent post on “Sketching prison cells as an act of resistance.”
I was reassured when I saw this post and site that there are many of us across different disciplines trying to bring to light the destructive and damaging condition of our prison industrial complex. Our hope with the toolkit for working with incarcerated men, women and staff is that it will contribute to the efforts of Prison Photography by providing them with the confidence and tools to record these spaces in any way they can.