Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Inscape: Art in a former Immigration Detention Facility
The artists were attempting to transform the energy in the building. We could all still feel the unhappiness and fear that lurked in these rooms. The building is available for artists studios, and quite a few artists are already working there.
The building was first built during the Alaska Gold Rush as an "assay" office, and the top floor remained that, a place to weigh gold and to establish its value. On that floor of the facility one of the works made a direct reference to that function. Megan Trayner had a piece on the floor with a gold leaf surface.
Nic Meisel's serendipitous installation, with its threatening sounds was off in another side room. I saw these pieces as it was getting dark, and the sense of ominousness in Nic's was definately present, in spite of his cheerful presence not too far away.
Some of the work was really inspired by the space and a radical departure for the artist, as seemed to be the case in the work of Katy Krantz ( judging by the art in her studio) who created a wonderful graffitti piece at the front entrance, based on simulating the actual graffitti in the small excersize space upstairs. Detainees from countries all over the world had written their countries on the wall in black tar from the roof. See piece at top of entry for Katy's artwork based on this graffitti..
Jen Mills Landscape of Memory, a room full of seats made of salt, suggested instability.
Ju Pong Lin combined video and an ironing board with an installation of shirts that documented the many different ways that Asians had been expelled from cities in the Northwest.
Gail Howard's infirmary of shredded sheets draped over beds captured the idea of illness within prison, not much care, just enough to keep people alive.
Her personal experience was mild compared to what people experience today, when there is mostly only one way out, deportation, but she clearly described the experience of standing in line day after day, the cramped and crowded rooms, and the atmosphere of oppression and anxiety.
For another artist addressing detention in these very same rooms see my post on Eroyn Franklyn