paraSITE and inmates’ inventions

The Shelter section of the Transmediale exhibit explores how technology can contribute to render the situation of disadvantaged groups more bearable.


The paraSITE plastic shelters made by Michael Rakowitz, for the homeless are units inflated and climatised by attaching them to out-take ducts in the ventilation systems of building.

In the same section there’s a video and a series of artefacts made by California prison inmates. Their inventions are as advanced or retarded as they have to be in relation to the restriction that the inmate is confronting.

Four years ago, Temporary Services (Brett Bloom, Marc Fischer and Salem Collo-Julin) asked Angelo, an incarcerated artist, to write a booklet about these inventions which cover a wide range of techniques for storage, bathing, cooking, privacy, recreation, etc.

Double-edged razo
r. The State issues four single-blade safety razor per inmate per month. To get the efficacity of double-edge razor, the prisoners had to resort to this awkward configuration:

Electric cigarette lighter
. Made from remnants of an old immersion heater. An inmate cannibalized a resistor from a throwaway radio, which cut down the amount of current passing through the wire so as not to melt it outright or blow the wall socket circuit breaker.

condomis.jpgProphylactics are unavailable to inmates. Two example of cell-made condoms: three overlaping pieces of a plastic bag secured with a small piece of thread and was made of a clingy shape-fitting sandwich wrap bound with a rubber band. Baby oil, margarine, Tri Backton or Vaseline are stapple lubricants.