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Past Installations

  • David Adler: Visions of the Free World

    Nearly all prison visitation rooms in the U.S. feature photo backdrops, painted by the inmates themselves, to be used in inmate portraits. The portraits are in most cases sent to family and friends in “the free world.” The backdrops, typically painted either on canvas or cinderblock walls, often portray beaches, waterfalls, rainbows, city skylines, and other expansive landscapes. What do these aesthetic choices say about inmates’ portrayals of their experiences in prison? What messages are they sending to those on the outside? How are those messages received?

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  • Judith Schaechter: The Battle of Carnival and Lent

    Eastern State Penitentiary Historic Site welcomes Guggenheim Fellow Judith Schaechter’s ambitious new work, The Battle of Carnival and Lent, to its 2012 artist installation program. These 17 stained glass windows are inspired by the prison’s dark history and installed in historic skylights throughout Cellblocks 8, 11, and 14 for the duration of the 2012 season.

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  • Luba Drozd: Institute of Corrections

    This video installation utilizes source materials created for correctional employees that include conferences, training discussions, and simulated scenarios. The artist edits the footage to uncover the system behind incarceration and the dialogue that goes on internally within the field of corrections itself.

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  • Alexa Hoyer: I Always Wanted to Go to Paris, France

    Most of what the average person knows about prison life comes from pop culture: literature, history, news and most importantly from television and film. When visiting historic sites such as the Eastern State Penitentiary, one easily recognizes the visual landscape so often depicted in popular movies, as well as imagining the personal and private narratives dramatically rendered on screen. The prison film genre tends to glorify, romanticize or even trivialize the harsh realities of prison life.

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  • Ruth Scott Blackson: No Trace Without Resistance

    The artist applies new paint chips, coated in gold leaf, to the flaking walls of an existing cell. In 
the resulting “shimmering constellation,” sunlight on the installation may entice the visitor in the same way an inmate may have been forced to concentrate on the walls during solitary confinement. The prison’s neglect reveals something surprising and rare underneath.

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  • Brian James Spies: Solitaire

    Having spent time in solitary confinement as a teenager in a juvenile psychiatric facility, the artist relies on his personal experience to create a sound collage of layered vocal tracks on Eastern State’s audio tour player. He replicates the sensation of being alone, consumed by one’s own thoughts in solitary confinement.

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2017 American Aliance of Museums Excellence in Exhibitions Overall Winner