Friday, July 23, 2010


Here in the Northwest we still have a lot of support for art from the public sphere, King County 4Culture, the City of Seattle Mayor's Office of Art and Cultural Affairs, the  Washington State Arts Commission. There are also many local non profits that support both visual art and the literary arts, theater, dance, opera, music and much more. Then we have street festivals, farmers markets, and impromptu creativity. We are lucky here.

But from my own perspective, I was really excited about an exhibition that is taking place at 4Culture gallery this summer, because the public support does not often, for obvious reasons, translate into support for politically engaged art. Sometimes there are subtle and indirect environmental references, and there has been a lot of support for artists working in the environment, but hard politics is a hard sell.

Eroyn Franklin managed to break through that with her amazing series "Detained."
Her drawings fill the walls of 4 culture with the stories of two immigrants going through detention centers in Washington State, the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, and its predecessor in Seattle, the U.S. immigration and detention facility.  It includes crucial, specific details, it makes the vague information that we have about detainees visible.

She tells two stories. One man from Cambodia, Many Uch,  who came here as a child, was placed in detention as an adult because he drove a getaway car in an armed robbery when he was 18, a crime for which he had already served a sentence. A woman, Gabriella Cubillos, was detained because she was pulled over for expired tabs, detained for unpaid parking tickets: she had entered the country illegally many years ago, when it was common and easy in the 1990s. 
Eroyn had some important facts that don't appear in the drawings with their thought balloons about conversations among inmates in the centers or elsewhere ( above in a mosque after Mani was released)

2/3 of deportees are removed for immigration violations alone
90 percent have no legal representation, no timely hearings
80 percent of those detained are deported- they say they want to be deported in order to get out of detention
Immigrant law is different from criminal law
All immigration decisions are part of the Executive branch, there is no legislative involvement

The growth in this industry is huge: the old INS in Seattle had 200 beds, ICE in Tacoma had 1000 when it opened, and it has 1545 now. There is a lot of money available for this since 9/11. In 2008 there was a 35 percent increase in deportations to more than 10,000 people ! This is horrendous. Detentions are random ( often combed from prison populations), there is virtually no legal recourse, and many of the people deported have made their homes in the US for many years and have children here.
The injustice of the situation is blatent.
What has happened to this country, formerly so welcoming to immigrants and enriched by them.
Of the 16 detention centers in the US, 7 are run by private contractor GEO,
they make $150 on every person in the center.  It is seen as an "investment opportunity" and a "growth industry" Another facility is projected for Yakima.

I would like to add from the Bill of Rights Defense Committee site that the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement ( ICE) spends 1.7 billion a year to detain 380,000 people

How did Franklin pull off having he"Detained" shown at 4Culture?
Well she is a photography graduate of Paul Berger and the University of Washington. That is a very helpful credential in this city.

Also, she was working with a journalism group who have done special reporting on this issue called The Common Language Project. They have done a four part series called Between Worlds/Behind Bars on "Seattle's Ellis Island" on the Northwest Detention Center in downtown Tacoma. So she had content that resonates, a crucial factor. She is engaged with her subject.

Finally, the work is difficult to read, as you can see from the image above. The fifty foot long drawings require serious effort for a gallery goer accustomed to sweep through a show at a glance. That makes it less obviously threatening to people who don't bother to read it. The writing is small for a gallery, it will be much easier when the book comes out. Here is the newspaper image.

PS. The old Seattle INS facility has just been sold online to investors who will work with the International District residents to address itthe history of immigration in Seattle which goes back to the detention of the Chinese in the late 19th century.

1 comment:

Tina Hoggatt said...

Thank you so much for highlighting Eroyn's work. I work in the same space as the gallery at 4Culture and it has been a real pleasure to see people coming in and spending time with her remarkable work. Cannot wait for the book to come out! The show is up through this week, and then will come down to make way for the August installation.