Oops, jumped too far forward. I haven’t finished talking about the trip to Philly.
Continuing the tour of strange museums of Philadelphia we come to the Eastern States Penitentiary.
I first heard of this space when Alan Wexler gave his first lecture at CCA. He was chosen to create a project for Prison Sentences: The Prison as Site/The Prison as Subject in 1995 at the Eastern State Penitentiary – where he created a huge range of the artifacts for use in the space (books, paintbrushes, pigments,etc.) by dismantling and re-assembling things that were provided for his maintenance (paper cups and plates, napkins, etc.). I remember it seeming like a strange mix of Gilligan’s Island, Angkor Wat and every POW movie I’ve ever seen.
The textures that have been retained, fostered, restored are amazing! It’s almost like coral in places.
And close up its Rauschenberg meets Kiefer (maybe).
You can’t NOT think about what human suffering sweat and talk has percolated through these walls to leave such stains.
Some of the cells have become locations for site specific artworks.
Cowper works in the same role at the same institution as Skinner did 200 years ago. He has now collected more than 500 specimens of more than 150 species of insects and invertebrates at ESP which are now displayed in one of the cells.
The ‘official’ caption reads “The meaning of their project has long been forgotten”. I think I’ve found the perfect epitaph!