THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF ESCAPISM
Westbourne Grove Artspace, London
24 February – 30 March 2010
Showcased where the homeless and disadvantaged are invited to take shelter, The Impossibility of Escapism a statement taken from C Levi Strauss, explores the written and printed word. The work is about personal institutionalisation, and confinement.
Comprising a series of photographs, taken in some of London’s most notorious prisons and anonymous city spaces, alongside a collection of unusual found objects that utilise text.
Many of the images depict the signs distributed throughout prisons in an effort to perpetuate a sense of order and conformity. Sad and often unintentionally ironic, they serve to reinforce the blighted situation of the prisoners. For example one photograph, taken in a place where there is no privacy, displays the word ‘Private’ backwards, whilst another illustrates a stark memo explaining the rigorous ‘Procedure for Receiving Flowers’. Many encourage prisoners to aspire to their higher selves. They express the profound waste of human potential in Her Majesty’ Prisons. The issues are institutions, crime and punishment, incarceration, waste, hope, freedom, how society polices itself.
The works in the exhibitions also explore the use of the written word in everyday society, and in doing so poignantly highlight that prisoners and addicts are not the only people for whom the process of institutionalisation and rehabilitation is a fundamental feature of everyday life. The found objects on display - a chain store coffee cup asking to ‘Fill me with your issues’; a napkin bearing the words ‘Keep your promises’; a children’s lunch box embossed with the warning ‘Stay away from drugs’ – crucially remind the viewer that these ‘self-help’ messages do, in fact, surround us all.
Text can implicate the viewer- the viewer is the the subject.