Heather M. O'Brien

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hope that you enjoy the show, 2011

paper envelope, ticket, 3" x 6"

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hope that you enjoy the show is an ongoing project that explores prison tourism and its relationship to the Prison Industrial Complex in the United States, looking specifically at the Louisiana State Penitentiary (LSP) in Angola, LA. The prison’s museum, hobby craft fair, golf course, and rodeo all embody a level of public display and spectacle, and the warden, Warden Burl Cain, carefully ensures that public sees what he wants them to see when they enter the gates of the prison. Captivity, creativity, and consumerism are in the hands of the Warden, where he often treats prisoners like puppets in his theater, for his own economic gains. LSP, also commonly known as Angola Prison, has a violent and racist historical narrative, one that is completely fetishized, repressed, and glamorized through the various tropes mentioned above (rodeo, golf course, etc.). When visiting the prison, I was denied access to the majority of the grounds, enforcing the Warden’s control over the visuality of the space and what was being constructed for me, the viewer. I am interested in questions surrounding visual presentation within a space of violence and control: Does the viewer have an ethical responsibility to challenge these displayed and curated histories? How do we push past journalistic and touristic understandings in order to question and change the state of mass incarceration? At the core of the project lies both an intention and a curiosity to unpack and re-contextualize our view of imprisonment in the United States. Given the current state of technology and the speed in which we receive information across the global landscape, it is essential to question not only the visual literacy of the media, but also the everyday situations we find ourselves within. Too often we are driven to make decisions by a listening or reacting to a composed culture of fear, controlled and overly constructed by people in power, encapsulated within a structure driven by capital. Representation has and never will be completely objective, and so we should feel a sense of responsibility to interrogate each image, clip, word, and sound we come across, whether it be in person, in print, or on the screen.

Artworks by Heather M. O'Brien

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