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November 18, 2002

Artist Statement: Roz Croog

But the body is also directly involved in a political field; power relations have an immediate hold upon it; they invest it, mark it, train it, torture it, force it to carry out tasks, to perform ceremonies, to emit signs. (Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish 1977. pp. 25-26).

Lorton Prison is about to be demolished. Throughout the past year, prisoners from this District of Columbia Correctional Facility in Northern Virginia have been transferred to the Midwest.

During several recent photographic visits to the Prison, I became intrigued with graffiti written in the Medium Security Adjustment Unit. Hopelessness in the form of anger, rage, and despair was evident in drawings and writings left behind in the darkened cells. The messages spoke to me of isolation, rejection, and invisibility. Perhaps the silent walls of their cells were the only witnesses to this anguish.

My installation, located within the second and third floor corridors of the Fine Arts Building, consists of two parts:

1. Images of graffiti representing the embodiment of former inmates, and
2. Images of a prison cell block devoid of inmates.

The Lorton property, acquired by the D.C. Government between 1910 and 1953, has been sold to a private developer and will now be commercialized. The buildings and bodies of the prison and prisoners at Lorton, Virginia, could not compete productively with a proposed 18-hole golf course, townhouses, and other economically-profitable industrial development.

The prisoners have become more isolated from their families remaining in the Lorton area, and with less likelihood of their families visiting them, there is even less chance of their functioning effectively outside of a correctional institution.

The moment someone went to prison a mechanism came into operation that stripped him of his civil status, and when he came out he could do nothing except become a criminal once again. (Michel Foucault, "Prison Talk," Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972 - 1977. pp. 41-42.)

Further, as Foucault states in Discipline and Punish, the body is effective in a political system only if it is productive and subjective. And he proposes to write a history of the prison, "with all the political investments of the body that it gathers together in its closed architecture." (p. 31).

Here, in the Fine Arts Building at UMBC, within the structure of a state institution which may also be described as politically motivated, where its progress, funding, construction, enrollment, program development is determined by "its very materiality as an instrument and vector of power" and knowledge, I find it appropriate to install my representation of the Medium Security Adjustment Unit corridor.

The now empty prison building is like a palimpsest: it contains a record of all the bodies that have passed through it.

Posted by dwinds1 at November 18, 2002 12:00 AM