9338 Joseph Campau is exhibiting the work of the Writer’s Block
April 15 – April 29, 2017
We Don’t Dream Under the Same Sky
New art and writing by David Armstrong Jones, Donald Malone-El, Dyson X Slater, Fred Williams, James D. Fuson, James D. Thomas, Julian Johnson, Major Shepherd-El, Maurice Sanders, Raymond Hall, Rolando Hernandez, Steve Hibbler, Tony Tard, Timothy Sanders, Yusef Qualls-El and others
Opening Reception: 6-9pm, Saturday April 15 2017
Panel Discussion: 2-3:30pm, Sunday April 16 2017
Poetry Reading & Closing Reception: 6-7:30pm, Saturday April 29
This exhibition presents work from a growing collective inside Michigan prisons. Writer’s Block is a movement which, animated by creativity, supports personal and political transformations. The focus here is on the human tragedy and social injustice that is the prison industrial complex. The visions presented recall a history of silencing, discrimination, isolation and death, and they foretell of limitations that will continue to suffocate a fuller range of human expression. Yet, seeing and hearing from inside the fence and behind the walls humanizes those bound to inhumane conditions. And witness demands a pragmatic political response: Decarcerate.
Across the US coordinated protests amass inside and out. Concerns about mass incarceration are dispersing across various emancipatory social movements. There have been real judicial gains for all made by those working in solidarity with Juvenile Lifers, who need support in their struggle with accountability, clemency and return. Emboldened by victories against captivity, this exhibition shows that, although often simultaneously fetishized and devalued as “prison-art”, Writer’s Block composes the fight for freedom in ever more nuanced and beautiful ways. From mathematical proportions to the klansman’s hood, Writer’s Block artists know realizing a world without prisons requires the emancipation of imagination. Their work shows the power imagination carries when committed to resisting captivity and cultivating freedom.
This assemblage of aesthetic mediums presents a plural, networked, and coordinated artistic resistance. It also indicates differences of access. Paper, paint, audio and archive demonstrate how Writer’s Block writ large has adapted to the uniquenesses of place. Even during the preparation of this exhibition, members have been relocated. Regardless, by capitalizing on affordances, circumventing and at times conceding to constraints, inside and outside members collaborate to distribute resources so as to aid the constant presence, in various public forums, of people incarcerated. Paintings are present because passports couriered approved material in and out of the system. Voices are recorded during costly and surveilled telephone calls. We are realizing creative ways technologies and techniques of dissemination can be utilized to multiply and amplify the voices of imprisoned. Unfortunately, no one inside is afforded open access to creative media, but each day ground is gained in the movement toward that goal. By sharing relative privileges, Writer’s Block aids others’ compositions and fertilizes a growing rhizome.
We all know that their voices are still stifled. The hope is that these artists can captivate your attention, so that they can be recognized: as artists, as children, as parents, as complex, as people. What happens if we take seriously the claim: We don’t dream under the same sky? What is the ethos appropriate when pursuing an encounter with an “other” who experiences the present, from a past and towards a future we don’t share? In what ways will we concretely realize or practice what we learn in an aesthetic moment of sharing? “Resistance is also the active state from which to seek collectivity and coalition. Resistance hardly ever has a straightforward public presence. It is rather duplicitous, ambiguous, even devious. But it is also almost always masked and hidden by structures of meaning that countenance and constitute domination. ‘Reading’ resistance is crucial for an alternative understanding of the realities of the oppressed. But that reading is done within enclosures and crossings that attest to a need for company. ‘Traveling’ to worlds of sense that are not given in the daily ‘teachings’ of dominant structures of meaning is one of the techniques, the arts, of moving from resistance to liberation.” (Lugones) How do we materialize fidelity to the event of witnessing imprisoned testimony? Is this the ethno-poietic moment of becoming abolitionists: the collective, collaborative and reproductive creativity that envisions and engineers a world without prisons? “…my inspiration…Writer’s Block…my fellow poets and artists incarcerated and not…speak to oppression both inward and outward…promoting healing and reconciliation…I cherish Wednesday night…a collective…transforming a cramped conference room into a great hall…creativity, comradeship, growth…I look forward, with great anticipation…” (Jones)
Karen Barad’s Meeting the Universe Half Way: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning, Luciano Floridi’s The Philosophy of Information, and Bernard Stiegler’s Technics and Time, 1: The Fault of Epimetheus. These three thinkers demarcate approaches to STS, broadly conceived, and present novel ways of thinking about fundamental ontology, epistemology, in addition to arguing for the importance of seeing and confronting the ethical implications that follow from their respective theories. In all three thinkers we see the intertwinement of epistemology, ontology and ethics. For anyone not familiar, I’ve tried to provide a quick glance at these three theorists.
Barad is a theoretical physicist in the area of quantum mechanics. She is also adept in the traditions of post-structuralism, feminism, feminist philosophy of science, epistemology and ontology. Barad’s work builds off of Neils Bohr’s “philosophy-physics” and has implications for how we make sense of the concepts of agency, realism, identity, difference, meaning and materialism just to name a few. Her concept of “intra-action” as the creation of a coherence of forces that give rise to matter and meaning has been influential for a number of theorists. She is also explicitly concerned with the place of ethics in science and philosophy and she argues that ethical life cannot be separated from them.
Floridi is rooted in the analytic philosophies of logics, maths and formal epistemologies. He works primarily from within the computational/information theoretic approaches. Arguably, according to Floridi, we’re experiencing a paradigm shift in philosophy and the sciences, wherein the formal application of the concept of information is revolutionizing not only our epistemic landscape but also the ontological structure of reality, i.e. we are having to reconceptualize not only matter and energy but also fundamental ontological categories like subject and object. He wants to emphasize the importance of philosophy as conceptual generation, and to formalize a system that tracks epistemologically across different registers or shifting granulations of analysis based on the ideas of levels of abstraction and gradients of abstraction.
Stiegler is rooted in the continental traditions of Heideggerian phenomenology and Derridean deconstruction. Through the lenses of french theorists Bertrand Gille, Gilbert Simondon and Andre Leori-Gourhan, all important thinkers in the philosophy of technology, Stiegler is interested in understanding the development of technics (tools and techniques) and in situating technics at the origin of a temporal structure of retention and protention specific to the genesis of the human. In other words, memory and externalized devices that transcend the life of the designer are the repositories that give shape to a future that is not yet and form the background conditions of inhabitants who in their turn anticipate and engineer a projected future.