Undoing Time: Art and the Histories of Incarceration
“People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.” -James Baldwin
The exhibition Undoing Time: Art and the Histories of Incarceration at the Arizona State University Art Museum scheduled for fall 2021 will use art and history as lenses to interpret contemporary phenomena and understand how the legacies of the past persist to this day. The Art for Justice Research Grant allowed curators, artists, scholars and community members to co-create an exhibition proposal that seeks to trace, unpack, and expose entrenched beliefs around the justice system that make mass incarceration what it is today.
With the artists Carolina Aranibar-Fernández, Juan Brenner, Raven Chacon, Sandra de la Loza, Cannupa Hanska Luger, Ashley Hunt, Mario Ybarra, Jr., Michael Rohd, Paul Rucker, Xaviera Simmons, Stephanie Syjuco, and Vincent Valdez, the exhibition Undoing Time: Art and the Histories of Incarceration will seek to consider the foundational roots of confinement from philosophical, sociological, theological, and art historical perspectives to better understand the fact that today’s mass incarceration crisis was centuries in the making. From the Code of Hammurabi, Judeo/Christian ideas of sin, Confucian labor philosophies, to European Enlightenment thinking and the legacies of U.S. slavery and colonialism, the artists in Undoing Time: Art and the Histories of Incarceration will explore the inheritances of our notions of sin, punishment, mercy, justice, poverty, and race.
Findings and Impact
Our exhibition will make space to analyze historical images of incarceration in direct conversation with newly commissioned works of art. We will unpack and reveal entrenched cultural belief systems associated with the criminal justice system to:
Mine diverse histories that consider the foundational roots of incarceration from philosophical, sociological, theological, and historical perspectives to offer deeper understanding of how today’s conditions are centuries in the making
Offer alternative histories, expose those that haven’t been seen, give voices to those unheard
Deploy artists and communities to build throughlines and tell the stories that haven’t been told
The goals of this exhibition:
Contribute excellent artworks to the field of contemporary art and art history;
Surface invisible or untold histories and narratives;
Unpack and critique moral, ethical and philosophical reasons leading to mass incarceration;
Remove stigmas and create broader, systemic view of the issue;
Allow us to imagine new possibilities for the future.