AHunt_TemporaryPublicSpaces - Temporary Public Spaces By...

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1 Temporary Public Spaces By Ashley Hunt Published in The Journal of Aesthetics and Protest, issue 4, vol 1, 2005 I. Intersection The project I’m describing here began in 1998, with research into prison privatization. This subject came as an intersection of two lines within my previous work: exploring the relationship of political economy and identity formation on the one hand, and teaching art and media literacy to young people on the other, wherein I was witnessing a rapid criminalization of my students by local police and school administrators. The private prison had recently re-emerged from its historical prohibition, converting the repressive state apparatus of the prison—which functions in relation to capital accumulation—into a space of capital accumulation in itself , 1 and it seemed to link these two lines concretely. It illustrated a political economy that produces oppress-able subjects (through the desire it produces for more and more prisoners), which manifest in less abstract, juridical, spatial and interpersonal effects of racial and class domination. Corrections After experimentation with this research in gallery-based installations, the project came to partial fruition with the completion of a feature length documentary, Corrections , in 2001. Forged out of three years of conversations with grassroots communities and activists, with academic and policy “experts” and representatives of prison corporations and businesses, the documentary takes prison privatization as a starting point to analyze today’s awesome prison growth as it relates both literally and figuratively to contemporary racism and class domination. Because of this, it quickly found an audience among a range of anti-prison activism and community development work throughout the U.S., within which critical, less traditional propaganda tools were sorely needed. Audience One strategy in constructing the video had been to multiply its voice by alternating its modes of address, its language and arguments as they might speak to (or shape) a specific “audience,” so that different sections would appeal to different communities. This was intended to bring varied positions into the common space of its audience, wherein they might identify with one another. Within racially and economically diverse audiences, this strategy allowed for a negotiation of differing ideas about “crime” 1 The chief ways imprisonment has served capital accumulation historically are: A) helping divide the working class against itself via the ideology of criminality (distracting the working poor from class struggle by re-focusing their “struggle” onto securing their property from the non-working poor, or lumpen); and B) providing a slave- labor force on a factory, plantation or state building (public works) model. With prison privatization however, profit is achieved in conjunction with the workforce downsizing and mass joblessness of globalization, wherein the unemployed are warehoused (absorbing the threat of surplus labor ) by companies who, in turn, accumulate tax revenue for use as finance capital.
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