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)