Pejac (previously) recently spent some time inside one of the oldest continuously running prisons in Spain. The prison, El Dueso, is a hulking structure built on the ruins of Napoleon’s fortress. True to his efforts to create and place his work in unusual settings and initiate conversations about unpopular subjects, the Gold Mine project resulted in three interventions that the artist realized in collaboration with inmates. “A prison itself is a place wrapped in harsh reality,” Pejac explained. The artist continues, “At the same time, I feel that it has a great surrealist charge. It is as if you only need to scratch a little on its walls to discover the poetry hidden inside.”
Making a connection between the sterile isolation inside and the lush nature surrounding the facility, the biggest and arguably most striking piece is an immense tree, a metaphor of ultimate, unspoiled freedom. The Shape of Days serves as a monument to the most cherished virtue: perseverance. It is entirely built from countless hash marks that reference an age-old method of keeping track of time away from the real world. Making an analogy between the tree leaves as the symbol of growth and marks as the symbol of extreme restraint, the majestic image captures the passage of time while providing hope.
Placed in a sterile, newly built corridor that connects the cells and outdoor areas, Hollow Walls is a poetic illusion of sliding doors made from the blank concrete walls. Through minimal artistic intervention, the artist added a sense of depth and perspective, creating a distraction for those walking along these walls daily. Once again using one of his most recurring images, a soaring bird, Pejac created an atmosphere of reachable yet fictional freedom.
The final piece, Hidden Value, also uses an element that artist has introduced in his previous work: a peeled off corner of an existing object suggesting an alternative reality. Working with people whose everyday life is stripped of life’s basic pleasures, Pejac wanted to provide some sense of luxury to the basic and highly restricted routine of the inmates. Using real 22-carat gold leaf and a trompe l’oeil technique he’s used before, he created an illusion of the basketball board revealing a large gold plate under its familiar surface. Challenged by taking everyday items and creating an alternative reality around them, the artist explored the previously mentioned idea of scratching under the surface and discovering that “sometimes, it is gold that does not shine.”
Explore more of Pejac’s thought-provoking work, ranging from site-specific installations to gallery pieces, on Instagram.
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The Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei currently has an exhibition on Alcatraz, the notorious island used as a military fortress and federal penitentiary. Amongst a large body of work created specifically for Alcatraz is “Blossom,” which has been installed in several hospital ward cells and medical offices. And as its name suggests, intricately detailed encrustations of ceramic flowers are blossoming out of sinks, toilets and tubs that were once used by hospitalized prisoners.
The curator offers two possibilities in interpreting Ai’s porcelain blossoms: a symbolic offering of comfort to the imprisoned or perhaps an ironic nod to China’s famous Hundred Flowers Campaign of 1956. But to understand the piece we think this quote by Ai himself is all you really need: “The misconception of totalitarianism is that freedom can be imprisoned. This is not the case. When you constrain freedom, freedom will take flight and land on a windowsill.”
Ai Weiwei’s exhibition on Alcatraz will be open through April 26, 2015. (via My Amp Goes to 11)
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Artist Markus Linnenbrink was recently commissioned to paint the visitors tunnel at the new Justiz Vollzugs Anstalt (Prison) in Düsseldorf, Germany. According to Linnenbrink the prison is a model institution and has been designed to deal with security and humanity as best as possible, thus the desire for a unique approach to a common entrance for family, lawyers and police.
Visitor access has to be underground by law in newly constructed prisons in Germany. This tunnel covers the 40m (about 132 feet) between the security check in the front building and the visitors area in one of the inner prison buildings. Concept for the installation was to create a 3 dimensional painting that follows and surrounds the visitor during the walk through the tunnel. Two sets of diagonal stripes that both grow wider while covering the distance build two different perspectives.
Born in Germany, Linnenbrink now lives and works in Brooklyn. You can see many more of his paintings, sculptures and installations on his website.
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