This project started by me exploring not only how we value objects but also how we value people. During my initial research I decided to take a closer look at, and concentrate on the prison system, and its treatment of inmates. The gathering of evidence and facts started with a visit to Eastern State Penitentiary located in Philadelphia USA. The prison is ‘famed’ for introducing the practice of 24hr solitary confinement, and separately, the once unique architectural design of the prison subsequently influenced prison architecture throughout the world, including London's Pentonville prison.
After a fascinating tour of the Eastern State Penitentiary, I began to question the very nature of prison. I wanted to further explore the different aspects of a world I had no experience of, and could never really comprehend. I found reading the prisoners stories the most informative and honest - this is where my pieces take their main inspiration from.
Behaviour Modification is a technique used by the prison system to try and increase or decrease a particular type of behaviour. One of these modification techniques is to feed inmates ‘Nutra Loaf‘ - made from the blended ingredients of an entire meal which is then baked. What I found particularly interesting was how they served it, instead of a food tray you are given your meal in a brown paper bag.
This is considered by many to be a form of punishment and some states in the U.S have chosen to ban the practice in an attempt to ‘humanise' how they treat inmates.
The words stitched into the paper are quotes found on the cell walls of Reading prison, and also from letters I received from prisoners along with drawings. These powerful words reflect a viewpoint and voice we, the ‘onlookers’, would never usually hear.
The font of the texts is also significant, for example - a number of light switches in the prison, comically had ‘room service' written on them!
I wanted to juxtapose the two following experiences, one of being in prison and the other staying at a luxury hotel. The font was inspired by hotel branding.
These brooches are made from brown paper and can be crushed easily to highlight the asymmetric fight of a prisoner verse the prison system.
My volunteering in a prison sewing class, re-affirmed to me the projects importance of ‘communicating the prisoner’s words’.
Through the pieces I wanted to show the value in their point of view, they are the ones living each day in prison, they are experiencing it first hand. It was a collaboration with them.Through the wearing of the brooches, people show solidarity to inmates.