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Questioning Aesthetics Symposium: Prisons & Art

California College of Art, Oakland, CA
April 28, 2016 — 9:00-5:00
Co-Sponsored by the California College of Art &
the Transdisciplinary Aesthetics Foundation
QAS-Prisons & Art is also a Pre-Conference Event
for the 2016 Open Engagement Conference on “Power,”
Oakland Museum of California

Introduction to Prison Aesthetics—Michael Kelly

Moderator: Michael Kelly
Rachel Herzing, “Untitled”
Laurie Jo Reynolds, “Untitled”

Moderator: Annabel Manning
Dee Hilbert-Jones & Nomi Talisman, “Aesthetics and the
Death Penalty: Last Day of Freedom and the Ripple Effect–Can Film Make Change?”
Ashley Hunt, “Against the Very Body of the Prison: On the
Aesthetic Regime of Mass Incarceration”

12:30-2:00           Lunch

Moderator: Shalani Agrawal
Raphael Sperry, “Questioning Prison Design: Critique and Activism”
Sharon Daniel, “Undoing Time”
Annabel Manning, “Jail Art Initiative: Contrasting Inmate Visual & Poetic Portraits”

3:30-5:00  Roundtable
Moderator: Michael Kelly

The goal of “Questioning Aesthetics Symposium: Prisons & Art” is to develop a transdisciplinary aesthetic critique of art’s roles in the apprehension, recognition, and abolition of the prison industrial complex (PIC), inspired by Angela Y. Davis: “The prison is one of the most important features of our image environment.” However, she adds, “This has caused us to take the existence of prisons for granted.” So one task of aesthetics is to critique the images of the prison in the arts and media that make it difficult for the public either to apprehend and recognize PIC or to acknowledge the urgency and possibility of its abolition. Looking ahead, another task of prison art and aesthetics is “to envision life beyond the prison,” to explore creatively “new terrains of justice, where the prison no longer serves as our major anchor” (Are Prisons Obsolete?). In this light, aesthetics and art can be allies of prison activism.

“Art stands under the law of the given,
while transgressing this law.”

“The inner logic of the work of art terminates in the emergence
of another reason, another sensibility, which defy
rationality and sensibility in the dominant social institutions.”
—Herbert Marcuse, The Aesthetic Dimension


Speaker Bios

Shalini Agrawal, Director, Center for Art and Public Life; and Adjunct Professor, First-Year Community Arts, California College of Art:

Sharon Daniel, Film & Digital Media, UC Santa Cruz; produces interactive and participatory documentaries focused on issues of social, economic, and criminal justice:

Rachel Herzing, co-founder of Critical Resistance, a national grassroots organization dedicated to abolishing the prison industrial complex:

Dee Hibbert-Jones, Art & Digital Art New Media, University of California Santa Cruz.  Current Oscar nominated film and interactive project is created with the families of prisoner  on death row. Founder & Co-Director SPARC at UCSC.  Co-director/co-producer of Last Day of Freedom:

Ashley Hunt, Co-Director, Program in Photography and Media Faculty, California Institute of the Arts; and Director, The Corrections Documentary Project:

Michael Kelly, Philosophy, UNC Charlotte; Editor, Encyclopedia of  Aesthetics (Oxford UP); President, Transdisciplinary Aesthetics Foundation:

Annabel Manning, Community Artist-in-Residence, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art& Mecklenburg Country Jail, Charlotte; works with undocumented Latina inmates:

Laurie Jo Reynolds, School of Art and Art History, University of Illinois at Chicago; organizer of the Tamms Poetry Committee + Tamms Year Ten campaign to reform and close Tamms supermax; decarceration advocate; working on media/messaging/arts strategy about collateral damage from current laws for people with sex offenses; teaches interdisciplinary courses in “Decarceration in Theory and Practice” and “Prison Aesthetics and Policy”—

Raphael Sperry, President, Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility,Berkeley; works for peace, environmental protection, ecological building, social justice, and the development of healthy communities:>

Nomi Talisman, Artist & filmmaker, San Francisco; co-director/co-producer of Oscarnominated film Last Day of Freedom created with the families of prisoners on deathrow:>