Confinement response 2: individual review

Sous le soleil d’Aniane : regards sur une institution

Correctional institution and prison in a town in France.

1894: heat waves and bad conditions ignite demonstrations and revolts that won’t calm down until the construction of a cellular facility years after.

Cells were very dark, infested with lice, bed bugs and rats. The food quality was acceptable, but the supplements to the well behaved and the insufficient nutrition to the rest didn’t seem like a good way to encourage good behavior to the inspector. He thought it could be source of fights.

The institution covered any damage done to the surrounding village by the inmates.

La Petite Roquette, la prison des enfants maudits

Now a park, La Petite Roquette, created in 1836, was a correctional facility for the kids ( 6 to 20 ) of Paris for a century. Where kids play today, hundreds were mistreated, wrongly incarcerated for years on end during a time where children’s rights didn’t exist. The only remains today are letters found in a Normandie ranch. The saddest part is that many of the letters sent to parents were intercepted and so never got to them. The kids then never received an answer. Most of the kids were beggars, taken away for living on the street, or “criminals” as they stole food to survive because of absent parents.

At that time, parents who weren’t satisfied with their kids could ask for a judge to send them away directly.

every day, all day, the kids were locked in a cell where they worked, ate, slept etc. They couldn’t talk to each other, and were only taken out once a week at the chapel that was also cellular based so the kids don’t corrupt each other. Not only could they not talk to each other but they couldn’t see each other either; they wore bags on their head to get there.

The 600 cell stone giant didn’t have electrecity, so the kids suffered constantly from the cold. It was considered a model prison, an experiment.

When the building got destroyed in 1974, they erased everything including any archives and personal letters. It was a shameful history for the French Republic, and with its destruction, a hope to forget.

The other archives follow the same dynamic; horrible conditions for emotionally or physically abandoned kids who didn’t have any choice. Anyone coming out of any correctional facility must’ve had some sort of trauma. It is safe to say that any of these correctional facilities weren’t about educating good manners; it was religious and military control over kids deprived from everything natural to a human being.

Reserve du musee des Enfants I et II – Picking up the pieces, the making of the Witness blanket

Using ordinary objects to represent lives is very strong. At the end of the day, when we leave, the only immortal parts of us are the non living objects that we’ve brought to life by using and appropriating them. Once we throw them away or give them away, they hold the memory of our use.  And until their full destruction, they’re reminders of all the human lives that have used it. Another proof that objects are so meaningful is that our society is based on materialism. Our whole economy and system thrives on the basic facts that we love acquiring things and giving them meaning. They can make us feel better on a social scale, or comforting as we may associate them to someone we love, they can make us look better or make our life easier; our safest space, our shelter basic to our survival, is filled with objects. We surround ourselves on a daily basis with manufactured goods and they feel more natural to us than natural ecosystems. They make us feel safe, and the Witness Blanket is a great play on that.

“art can open our hearts to the pain of truth and the beauty of resilience.”

The Public Secret

I like the dynamic of displaying 3 different informational mediums on the screen along with sounds. It’s successful in giving an overall feel and depth that photos fail to do on their own sometimes (especially that they can be misleading or misinterpreted).

I’m adding this after seeing installation below, the two artworks work in opposite ways, as this one is much more “minimalistic”, but they’re both as strong. This one is maybe much more bearable and makes me want to learn and remember the victims through reflexion and understanding, unlike the installation below that imposes physical and emotional sensations as a way to remember.

This Is Before We Disappear from View

This work made me so overwhelmingly uncomfortable I couldn’t last more than 20-30 seconds. If I had a choice I would’ve even turned it off 5 seconds in. It ignites in me stress, fear, terror, despair, lack of comfort. I can only imagine this is the beginning of what all those confined children felt. I see the walls much differently that I would see them without the sound and context; I’d just see a wall. Now I see through its cracks and color a suffering that feels infinite as this concrete wall will be here forever unless teared down by a human.

The script and the robotic voice make me feel alone and abandoned, the opposite of hearing your mom’s voice putting you to sleep. It lacks so much humanity and soul which illustrates perfectly what an inspector or manager of corrective facilities must’ve appeared like to the children who didn’t know any better. The worst part for me are the echoing voices in crescendo, they really scream of pain.


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