Artissima: America’s Family Prison

0aartismmposterre.jpgThe 15th edition of Artissima, the international fair of contemporary art in Turin, closed yesterday. 128 galleries from 19 different countries gathered under the roof of the city’s historic FIAT factory building at Lingotto.

The event is certainly not as glamorous as Frieze nor is it as vibrant, invigorating and edgy as Art Forum Berlin. Artissima nevertheless scores a few points in the ’emerging galleries and artists’ category and i’m going to document some of them this week.

Prometeo Gallery put up the most exciting show. but that’s just my opinion and i lose any pretense to be objective the minute i see the name of Santiago Sierra on a wall.

Prometeo is also representing Regina José Galindo, a Guatemalan performance artist who received the Golden Lion award at the Venice Biennale in 2005, in the category of “artists under 30”, for a video (click only if you’re very brave!) that depicted the surgical reconstruction of her hymen.

Galindo’s performances address social injustice, gender discrimination, racism and the governmental atrocities of her own country. In March 2008, she enrolled her family in a performance that protested against the U.S.’ booming industry of private prisons.

0aguatemallll.jpgRegina José Galindo, America’s Family Prison, 2008. Portable jail cell, trailer. Installation external view

For her performance, America’s Family Prison, Galindo rented a cell for $8,000 from Sweeper Metal Fabricators Corp and had it transported to the Art Pace gallery in San Antonio TX.


The artist, her husband and their 2-year-old daughter locked themselves in the mobile prison unit for 36 hours. Gallery visitors could peep through the narrow windows of the brightly-lighted cell and observe the family as they tried to occupy themselves with books and drawings during their voluntary detention.

The performance refers in particular to T. Don HuttoFamily Residential Center,” a for-profit private prison located in Taylor, near Austin, and operated by Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private jail company in the world with one of the highest stock market values on Wall Street.

0adetainnnn.jpgCharles Reed/Department of Homeland Security, via Associated Press, via TNYT

T. Don Hutto is the first prison authorized by the state to lodge whole families: men, pregnant women, adolescents, children, women, and even babies. The inmates are not necessarily criminals, very often they are detained there while their immigration status is determined.

A 3 part documentary in english and spanish describing the conditions of life inside T. Don Hutto:

The lucrative market of private prison took off in the 1980s under the Reagan-Bush administrations, prospered throughout the 1990s, and today flourishes due to anti-terrorism measures and tougher immigration laws. Many organizations for human, political, and social rights consider these facilities a new form of human exploitation.

The private prison business is huge. It has its own commercial exhibitions, conventions, websites, and mail-order catalogues. It works with hundreds of partner companies –from architecture and construction firms to plumbers and vendors of food, security equipment and uniforms– that provide services, equipments and goods.

Related entries: YOUprison, Some thoughts on the limitation of space and freedom, Video of the day – Trapped: Mental Illness in America’s Prisons and Artur Żmijewski: The Social Studio.