Academic journal article Afterimage

Evelyne Leblanc-Roberge's Wall+Paper

Academic journal article Afterimage

Evelyne Leblanc-Roberge's Wall+Paper

Article excerpt

EVELYNE LEBLANC-ROBERGE: In October 2014, I sent letters to men and women who are serving a life sentence or are on death row across the United States, asking if they would be interested in collaborating with me to produce a book and exhibition project about living spaces. I received several responses to my call for collaboration. Initially, receiving their responses was overwhelming. It was like receiving letters and drawings from another world--a parallel, institutionalized world.

When I started the residency at the Visual Studies Workshop Project Space in November, I felt an urgency to do something with the letters I had received. As I was replying to my new collaborators, I photocopied the original letters, and selected and cut out parts that were inspiring or spoke to me in terms of visual imagery, and installed the fragments in the room. The walls of the Project Space became a mind map to help me process the next steps of the project.

I photographed the small pieces of paper cut out from the copied letters along with the 4x6 images I sent back in response to the first series of letters, thus embedding the gray walls of the Project Space in the work. I then printed these photographs and installed them back in the room. I wanted to reference and integrate the space itself with the spaces described by my collaborators--these spaces that one cannot access, and these spaces that one cannot leave.

I also wanted to play with the different possibilities of the (partial) equation "wall + paper" by installing a 1:1 scale photograph of a concrete wall on a wall of the Project Space. The main idea behind this specific installation was that the visitors could experience the exhibition/studio space with a new attention -the textures, colors, and marks of the walls themselves being an integral element in the work.

I made booklets with fragments from the letters. This project will become an artist's book that will be a mobile exhibition, allowing my collaborators to have access to the outcomes of the project. The following are some excerpts (with my collaborators' permission) of letters, objects, and artworks I have received in response to my call, and some photographic images I sent in return.

In reference to my image Office:

   I must say that the image from the flooded office seems to ask a
   question: What are the things that really matter? What do we
   appreciate, pursue and labor towards? What do we need? When the
   water starts rising those are the things to consider but why wait
   until the furniture Is washed out the window to ask those
   questions? (1)

   The cell Is all concrete covered, smooth and painted white, except
   the door which Is blue, kind of a dull blue, or a little grayish in
   color. Everything we are allowed is blue and/or white, some of us
   older cons that have been to other joints or have gotten packages
   way back might have different color sheets and towels. (2)

   A place longed for: There is a secluded spot, high up on the hill.
   On one side are houses, on the other, a long railing protecting a
   steep decline to an area below the freeway. The view is nothing
   spectacular--two highways headed In the opposite directions,
   twisting around and over each other; yellow streetlights on a large
   empty boulevard with dimly lit warehouses along its length; a
   black, starless sky dominating the scene--but it's peaceful, and the
   people in their homes don't mind me. I slept here, in my car, many
   nights, when I had nowhere to go and no one to keep me company
   except for a bottle of gin and the stars I couldn't see. (3)

I have invited Peter Christensen and Joshua Dubler to have a conversation about the project and share their insights on the topic of prisons from their respective fields: architecture and religions.

PETER CHRISTENSEN: As an architectural historian, it is my task to consider the specifically spatial aspects of Evelyne Leblanc-Roberge's compelling and ongoing project Wall+Paper to see what kind of insight I can offer on both the historical and theoretical levels. …

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