Leonidas K. Cheliotis (ed): The Arts of Imprisonment: Control, Resistance and Empowerment
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On the walls of the visiting room of the prison that holds my father are several murals painted by prisoners. Every few years a new warden will redecorate by ordering the old murals painted over and replaced with new ones, yet, though the images on the walls change, the messages they convey do not. They almost invariably consist of patriotic symbols (flags, eagles, the state seal) intertwined with judicial or carceral ones (the scales of justice, gavels, guard towers, razor wire). The overall sentiment of the paintings—made on the walls of the only place in the prison where families can reunite—is always that prisons are both patriotic and just. Though I have never had the chance to speak to any of the incarcerated muralists about their work, I cannot help but wonder whether any of them actually wanted to surround visiting families with images that reify the very institution that prevents them from living with their loved ones.
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