Traversing correctional space : the tensions between justice, ethics and aesthetics.
2017-02-06T04:22:43Z (GMT) by
The Barwon Interviews is a visual project that has been produced with the assistance of Corrections Victoria and the approval of the Victorian Department of Justice. The research data was generated through the process of filming interviews and conducting a journal workshop with twelve prisoners from Barwon Prison. The final iteration, presented as the examination exhibition for this doctoral project, represents a translation of their individual experiences and their responses to incarceration. In order to determine how video can be used to represent the prisoners experience from a critical and ethical perspective, the work enacts a number of visual and conceptual strategies. These methods and tactics seek to question the objective representation of criminals as delinquent, manipulative and different. By examining the conventional aesthetic strategies and ideological practises of the media and of corrections authorities in constructing social categories as a means of repression, the work seeks to answer this question: how might art provide an alternative representation, one that gives voice to the experience of incarceration? Of concern are the complex interwoven relationships between the symbolic, and the real, as explored through the practice of representation. In a cultural politics of multiple truths, rhetoric and mimicry, we might still search for a sense of 'the actual' or 'the lived'. Can video provide a real life portrait of the incarcerated individual and can this be the basis for a claim to actuality? To witness the way incarceration regulates behaviour we have to go beneath the surface of the image and look at the non-linguistic or performed elements. Particularising the data, using it in expressive as well as useful ways by composing movements and gestures that might contradict what is being said, we are able to explore the masks worn by prisoners and concentrate on the tensions and frictions between public and private, conscious and unconscious spheres. The impossibility of establishing truth also acts as commentary on the nature of language, perception and self-regulation. The world of the prisoner is alienated, fractured and far removed from the respectability of 'civilized' society. This displacement ostensibly takes on added meaning in the judicial system and in the mainstream media industry where the criminal becomes a symbol of 'moral otherness'. By creating a viewing space where the hierarchical stance between the spectator and the prisoner is reformulated, I aim to revisit this inter-subjective relationship.