Art in prison

'Everything is Temporary'- Art in Prison, an outreach project by Yvonne Kennan, with the support of the Prison Arts Foundation. 08 - 20 July 2013.

Opening hours: Tues-Fri 1-5pm, Sat 11am-3pm.
Closed: 11/12/13 July.
End project opening: Thursday, 18 July, 6-9pm.

It might be a mistake to follow the title 'Everything is Temporary', with the description ‘art in prison’.  For some ‘art in prison’ is a turn-off and waste of time: creativity and convicted criminals, how could it work and why bother.  After Michael Stones’ self-declared performance and act of violence at the doors of Stormont, art doesn’t thrive behind locked doors nor should it.
Others might think just the opposite:  art in all its forms should play an important role in the rehabilitation process of prisoners and is an ideal vehicle for self-expression and the search of a (reformed) identity.
To judge for yourself, just look at some of the work in PS² by inmates from Maghaberry prison. Collages with cut outs from magazines like wallpaper, Vogue and The Face, brought in by the artists–and accepted by the authorities. Why this mention of highbrow material matters is the fact that the collages look everything but chic and fashionable. The work is demanding and charged, sexual and physical and full of questions, often highlighted through cut out letters.
Direct and unharmed by conventions, the output by the inmates speaks more convincing than work by trained artists. A bold statement perhaps, but at least it shows that visual art has or should have a place in prison.
‘Everything is Temporary’  is an outreach project by PS² and artist Yvonne Kennan, who visited the high security prison on a weekly basis between September 2012 and May 2013 and worked with (male) inmates in two hour sessions.
Various methods and approaches to art were addressed with the intention, to develop ideas and work towards an installation in PS². Much of the work was produced unaided throughout the week and between sessions.
Due to security restrictions, disciplinary measures and transfers of inmates to other prisons, this outreach project had to overcome many hurdles and interruptions. Constraints concerning time, space, security and motivation were and are common and large factors affecting outcomes. These were acknowledged as part of the course and confronted in a creative way.
PS² encouraged Yvonne to keep a diary of her work and encounters with the prisoners, her travel to and from prison, her feelings, motivations, frustrations and drive. It is her decision to keep the work of the prisoners in the spot light and not to add her own voice. In a short statement she writes:

'I am an artist/ facilitator/ female/ person. Many aspects of this project resonate with me. The individuals I encounter, the group dynamics, the daily life, the compact environment, the routine, the routine of my journey, the routine of security, the normality. This project stems from a belief in art as a positive expressive outlet. The aim and hope is that the participants will continue to utilize individual forms of creativity.'


Image: 'Stage One'. Mixed media collage by unnamed prisoner.

For information on Prison Arts Foundation see here.




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