I have never visited a prison before this month but this month I have visited two. Her Majesty’s Prison Send (Berkshire) and the de-commisoned HMP Holloway (Islington).
A visit to HMP Holloway’s boundary, was to experience a ‘derivée’ as methodology to my psycho geographic enquiry. While circumnavigating those impenetrable red brick walls, it elicited an artistic response and became distracted by another’s politically motivated art graffitied on the walls ‘nice flats for nice people’.
‘Nice flats for nice people’ is the bitter response to the future of this infamous women’s prison. My concern with prisons are the effects on women prisoner’s and their families.
When prisons are de-commissoned, the prisoners’ sentences live on and they move on. Prisoners are dispersered all over the country to other prisons irrespective to family and proximity to home (there are less women prisons – just 14 – in the country so the women will be positioned geographically, further from ‘home’). Social fragmentation has an insidious effect on families and relationships. This amounts to a negative condition on women prisoners. When inmates were moved from HMP Holloway, it resulted in 50% of women inmates losing contact with their families. Even such a move as Holloway from Central London to the edge of London in Surrey had devastating effects.
This led me to reflect on HMP Reading ( de-commissioned in 2015), another target of avaricious governments at the expense of prisoners and their network of family relationships. HMP Reading was the site of an ArtAngel charity funded exhibition ‘Inside:Artists and Writers in Reading Prison’, 2016, held between close and re- development.
One hundred years ago, HMP Reading housed a very brilliant yet tormented poet and artist. Oscar Wilde was deprived of fundamental human right of liberty by the very nature of his love for another of the same sex. A hundred years ago, the Suffragettes were imprisoned for their beliefs at Holloway and force fed. How cruel can the power of authority be to punish by incarceration? I am thinking of Foucault whose thoughts have influenced academics working on feminism. I do not know Foucault’s thoughts on Wilde, but I am certain confinement of Wilde would not have escaped Foucault ‘s knowledge nor empathy, by the very nature of his sexuality. I digress…
Below the is studio shots of work in progress, of my latest studio work. An (unsophisticated) installation. Title HMP Holloway Cell (Installation 2m (l)x 1m (w) x 3m (h) To the right are my Unit 1 Prisoners based on real characters from Millbank Penitentiary – a result of my Psycho geographic explorations at Millbank. You can see traces of the now dismantled Mary, Janet, and Elizabeth’ in the new studio work.
Above ‘Culmination of Unit 1: ‘Mary, Janet and Elizabeth’ and print from Millbank Penitentiary prisoners uniform- a result of my Psycho geographic explorations at Millbank throughout Unit 1. You can see traces of the now dismantled clothing of ‘Mary, Janet, and Elizabeth’ in the new studio work below.
Below are studio shots of work in progress, of my latest studio work. An (unsophisticated) installation. Title HMP Holloway Cell (Installation) 2m (l)x 1m (w) x 3m (h) To the right are my Unit 1 Prisoners based on real characters from Millbank Penitentiary.
Below are fragments of the new studio work for Unit 2, ‘Holloway Cell’ Unit 2
Below is a newly discovered transatlantic artist whose work comments on human connections. Julia Goodman’s sculptures employ recycled material (paper). Although the artist’s construct are large and heavy looking, they are deceptive. They are comments on temporality and vulnerability. She successfully combines the duality of social issues and ecological responsibility.
Julia Goodman ‘Certain Is Nothing Now’ Paper pulp, 2003