Josh Begley, Prison Map, 2014, c-print, 60 x 66 ½ inches, courtesy of Robert Koch Gallery, San Francisco
Thursday, December 1st from 6 to 8 p.m.
The exhibition Partner in Crime on view in the Department of Criminal Justice at Rutgers University’s Newark campus, examines the spatial representation of prisons, and the connection between geography and imprisonment. This group show contains work by artists of different disciplines, who use cartographical elements to express their concern about the sprawling developments of prisons across the United States. In a time when incarceration rates are growing, prisons are overcrowded, and discussions about prison reform are widely debated, many are investigating how prison populations and facilities can be reduced. The artists in this exhibition represent this reality by incorporating aerial views, maps, charts and architectural illustrations, through which they problematize the existing mechanism of mass incarceration. The geographical content in these works, highlights their conceptual and representational components, and also raises the following questions: what does imprisonment look like? What is the relation between prisons and land? And what is the correlation between crime, society and mass incarceration?
The growing presence of prisons and policing in the United States has contributed to the reshaping of the country’s physical as well as its social landscape, so much that the country is referred to as “the carceral state.” Despite the drops in crime, prisons are still full and continue to rise. With over 6,000 confinement facilities (be it state prisons, federal prisons, local jails, etc.), the United States currently has more than 2 million people behind bars with significant racial disparities. As some of the works in the show demonstrate, more money is distributed towards increasing the amount of prison facilities than on investments to nurture education, health and other basic social needs in the areas where crime is highly concentrated. The works express a great necessity and concern to understand the reasons for having the largest incarceration system in the world, the disproportionate numbers of imprisonment, and the growth of prisons in this country.
This exhibition aims to form and galvanize an exchange of ideas about this highly complex and expanding subject matter – indeed, a number of recent exhibitions across the country have been dedicated to this topic. In preparing for this show, various online platforms became a valuable source of material and inspiration. It is imperative to highlight them here in order to continue raising awareness and furthering the dialogue.