As citizens, we live with systems that are put in place to monitor, control and change our behaviours. In On the other side, three artists consider the impact of these systems: on those who design them, those who administer them, and those who are subject to their enforcement.
Melanie Crean and Katrina Palmer present two new artworks made with participants across Liverpool, York and Rochdale who have experiences with the justice system: imprisoned people and their communities, staff, and those who influence decision makers. Public perception and understanding of the UK justice system varies wildly across media outlets, political positioning, and cultural representation.
Developed between the artists and the participants as experts in their own experiences of the system, these artworks make visible the complex formation of individual and collective identities formed by the landscapes of prison and incarceration.
Alongside, Pilvi Takala presents a multi-channel video installation made in collaboration with former colleagues who worked as private security guards in one of Finland’s largest shopping malls. In it she considers how power is exercised in spaces for the public that are privately owned, and reflects on the roles and responsibilities of security personnel who exert power to maintain social order.
These works encourage us to reconsider the everyday behaviours we learn and conform to, often without question. How might looking at them differently allow us to disrupt or reimagine what we accept as normal?
On the other side includes works from Resolution – a multi-year project to explore how art can affect public attitudes and influence decision-making in the justice system. Resolution invites artists, incarcerated people and their families, prison staff, policy makers and criminology researchers to work together as project participants. Working in this way creates the opportunity for dialogue within the system – and ultimately, a hope for change.
Photo Credit: Melanie Crean, A Machine to Unmake You (M2UY) (2023). Film still. Courtesy of the artist.