free sample pack of cialis

Open Invitation

If you have participated in the project and would like to contribute to the blog, please contact Gregory Sale.

Notes on Gregory Sale’s It’s not just black and white (blog # 3)
A blog by Arthur J Sabatini, Associate Professor of Performance Studies, ASU

Though in certain ways it is obvious, there are not many discussions about the visual culture and aesthetic dimensions of the criminal justice system. Or, to be more precise, for all the novels, works of theater and performance, as well as films, television series and documentaries that relate the dramas of crime and punishment, law and order, policing, criminality and incarceration – something about the physicality, viscerality and “look” of the subject often seems unknowledged unless it is as aspect of high drama (as in the series, Oz). What I am getting at – and what It’s not just black and white engages most directly – is that there is a formalized, public aesthetics to the order and actions of the agencies of the State and Nation that defines space, time and relations of people and the agencies of governmental power.

As for the everyday law enforcement system, when it comes to buildings and other sites, the citizen knows immediately – and is meant to know – what to expect. In any ordinary type of interaction with the police, courts or jails, everything is peremptorily framed by the architecture, signage and the expressions and body language of the officials in any given place. Walk into a national or municipal building and the signs, postings, furniture and décor, along with uniformed and armed persons, establish a stage set for verbal interactions of statements that involve personal identification and a declaration of purpose. This is accomplished with the necessary, but always present non-descript, standardized business props: sign-in sheets, clipboards and pens, filled-in or printed out temporary id tags. Video monitoring systems may or may not be visible. When it comes to witnessing or doing “official” business, the rules of the environment are constraining (which is why when violent disruptions occur in the courtrooms it is palpably disturbing). Invariably, official buildings are also with roped off walkways, waiting areas and more benches than just about any other space you ever visit. The atmosphere and postures associated with sitting and waiting create a tone for bodies and expressions that all but defines the physical experience public encounters with bureaucracies. Everything is proscribed to be orderly, predictable and impersonal. Signs of ambiguity, emotionality, individuation are not valued, though some people act out their anger or grief at being there. Interaction between or among individuals is regulated and, if it involves someone in legal custody, mediated by appointed guards. Of course, if you are a judge, lawyer, police officer or work in these places in any capacity, your clothing, demeanor, awareness of the other personnel and layout of the building as well as your expectations of others are adjusted (somewhat like people who work in hospitals)

Now, we expect certain visual qualities and a general sense of how people are supposed to look and behave in official public spaces, just as we have an idea of what it is like to be in a hospital, museum or classroom. To disrupt or conflate or invade that space – say, if you were to a clown costume to a courtroom – puts employees and officials in a position to react – and enforce – their rules and to exercise their authority. In these times, there are police or security personnel in every government building who often carry weapons and/or communication devices like walkie-talkies. The reality of normalized office life is – maybe even should be – bland.

What It’s not just black and white accomplishes as a project is to physically transport people, imagery, attire and gear and (some of) the mechanics and performances of jail to an art museum. Said another way, the look and experience of incarceration moves to a site dedicated and empowered to authorize symbolic display, creative and aestheticized production, free conversation and movement, public interaction and unfettered reflexive examination and interpretation. The project announces itself with the stripes painted on the ASU Art Museum Wall and relies on multiple written texts, photographs, video tapes and recordings, and a succession events (and the blogs on this website). Art museums, as in all bureacurcies, are also places for archives and they value the retaining of individual works, collections, documentation and records. Art museums are both related to the communities they serve and are part of a worldwide collective of not only other art museums but museums in general.

The important point to emphasize here is that It’s not just black and white is not simply an effort to represent the facts and experiences of the criminal justice and incarceration system by artists and the institution of the ASU Art Museum. It revolves around activities largely by non-artists, including inmates, families, and state employees (although, of course, it is organized by an artist, Gregory Sale). The numerous events, meetings, panels and conversations – including tours of Tent City – are not by definition artistic or aesthetic. However, as It’s not just black and white takes place in the ASU Art Museum and through its agency, the symbolic and aestheticized aspects of the events and the criminal justice and incarceration system are privileged, with the implications that: a) the seemingly unremarkable everyday life of law enforcement and bureaucracy can become or may have inherent aesthetic qualities; b) the art museum can re-present far more facets of human life than it has previously; c) the arts, artists and arts institutions are capable of certain types of social and political activity, if not activism; d) the arts, artists and arts institutions have the potential to operate with external rules and boundaries of other areas culture. That is, the arts and artistic work can investigate, engage, represent, present, organize all or any subjects or actions, or, as in It’s not just black and white, multiple, eclectic, discontinuous and simultaneous projects – even with very few actual artists or art involved. Since such work is not explicitly constrained by an economic, political or ideological agenda – it is essentailly neutral except insofar as it is about art and aesthetics and a determined content which, ultimately creates what is said or shown and its forms of media.

In short, It’s not just black and white does not itself state what is not just black and white, nor does it deliver an interpretation of the central themes of the project (criminal justice and incarceration in Arizona). Rather, it initiates and creates a space – as, arguably, no other activity or institution can – for activity, discussion, and response and significant dialogue.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

© 2011 It's not just black and white blog Suffusion theme by Sayontan Sinha