On Saturday 5th May I attended:
Bring Down The Walls
‘ORIGINS OF CONTROL’ at THE FIREHOUSE, 87 LAFAYETTE STREET, NYC
‘Creative Time, in partnership with The Fortune Society, is proud to present Bring Down The Walls, a three-part public art project with artist Phil Collins in collaboration with over 100 individuals and organizations.
Setting the stage for Bring Down The Walls, this first week we look at the origins of the prison industrial complex, inviting global, historical and personal perspectives that question how and why our current culture of systemic control and punishment exists. Conversations will introduce the abolitionist position, as well as explore the intrinsic links between the current prison system and America’s history of racial exploitation, economic discrimination, and other oppressive social practices.’
The event was the first scheduled activity of my professional development residency and it enabled me to focus on the following question from my bursary-application:
‘How can we ensure that an ethics of environmental symbiosis and equality amongst all peoples is not only sustained, but updated and informed by future generations?’
• ‘Notes on the Afterlife of Mass Incarceration’ was particularly fascinating in terms of equality from the perspective of incarcerated ethnic community members. The audience was encouraged to rethink the inevitability of the ‘revolving door’ by considering the inherent potential for prison to manifest a series of ‘RADICAL SPACES FOR FREEDOM’ for prisoners in correctional institutions.
Dr Reuben Jonathan Miller presented a ‘framework’ for transformation, from an engagement perspective, that promoted process-lead interactions as follows:
MOVING FROM THE REJECTION OF THE ‘OTHER’ (Making people the ‘vector’ of all of your fears) to the creation of RADICAL SPACES OF FREEDOM and EMBODIMENT.
Bio: Reuben Jonathan Miller is an ethnographer and Assistant Professor in the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration. His research examines life at the intersections of race, poverty, crime control, and social welfare policy. His forthcoming book, titled Halfway Home, is based on 15 years of research and practice with currently and formerly incarcerated individuals and their communities.
• Baz Dreisinger talked about correctional institutions being ‘Factories of suffering for human beings that offer up pockets of radical progressiveness AND radical backwardness’
Bio: Dr. Baz Dreisinger is the founder and Academic Director of the Prison-to-College Pipeline program, which offers college courses and reentry planning to incarcerated men throughout New York State. Dr. Dreisinger was named a 2017-2018 Global Fulbright Scholar for her work promoting education and restorative justice and her book Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World, was named a Notable Book of 2017 by the Washington Post.
Phil Collins and Vocalists from Bring Down the Walls (benefit album) discussed the power of ‘music as an unlocking mechanism’ which was echoed by Michael Austin (who spent 27 yrs wrongfully incarcerated for murder and robbery and was subsequently exonerated) talked of music ‘as a vehicle that helped maintain sanity’.