Fort Houston, 500 Houston St, Nashville
November 2-30, 2013
Opening Reception on November 2, 6-9pm
Fort Houston is pleased to present Unit 2 (part 2): From the High Chair to the Electric Chair, an exhibition of a model society designed by David Duncan, Ron Cauthern, and other prisoners on Tennessee’s death row.
Constructed from materials permitted by prison authorities, including painted cardboard, plastic, and pasted paper, the miniature city offers a view of the society from the standpoint of individuals it has condemned to death. In a series of episodic vignettes, it traces a dispiriting, but familiar path from the housing projects through the playgrounds and schools and ultimately to the prisons and execution chambers. In this piece, the artists describe a social landscape where a persistent lack of opportunity becomes an engine of criminality and incarceration, where the downtrodden are continuously subjected to surveillance and control, and where social and political failures destroy lives. Overall, the ensemble suggests that our courtrooms, prisons, and execution chambers will never be empty until our institutions take responsibility for society’s most vulnerable citizens. It argues that social and political failures inaugurate a cycle of poverty and incarceration that frequently repeats itself from one generation to the next.
The diorama advances this critique while aspiring to introduce its audience to some of the dismal realities of contemporary poverty and imprisonment. As David Duncan had remarked, “I don’t want children today to learn about this cycle after they’re in prison.”
For more images, click here. Thank you to Steve Schaffer for the photos!