This site represents a series of new media documentary projects by Sharon Daniel that reveal social and economic injustice across a spectrum of public institutions – the criminal justice system, the prison industrial complex, the public health system, and the public education system. The series documents and analyzes testimony and evidence of how state institutions, social structures and economic conditions connect in a causal chain (from inequality in health care and education to racial and economic discrimination in the justice system) that fosters and perpetuates social injustice. The projects represented here include Public Secrets, Blood Sugar, Inside the Distance, Undoing Time and work-in-progress toward the completion of In the Fourth World. These works are available as interactive web documentaries and installations.
CONVICTIONS is the title of an exhibition mounted by STUK Kunstcentrum that brings together four of Sharon Daniel’s recent works: Public Secrets, Blood Sugar, Inside the Distance and Undoing Time. In his essay for the accompanying Cahier author Pieter Van Bogaert writes, “[Convictions] is a misleading, ambiguous title, which can be interpreted in at least two different ways. It can be read as the verdicts of guilt handed down to those who are accused, or as beliefs in a given system. These meanings are interchangeable, and that is what this exhibition invites us to do: to change locations, put yourself into other characters, spaces and situations. It means setting yourself aside, as well as bringing yourself to the fore, stepping back and approaching. Each change of place creates a different meaning. Each meaning creates its own truth."
BLOOD SUGAR examines the social and political construction of poverty and addiction in American society through the eyes of those who live it. Because addicts in the US must fear encounters with regimes of enforcement they are afraid to be seen -- but they do want to be heard. Theirs are the most important voices in the discourse on addiction, public health and poverty and in the US.
BLOOD SUGAR provides an interactive interface to an audio archive of conversations with 20 current and former injection drug users recorded at the HIV Education and Prevention Program of Alameda County and in California state prisons. Visitors to this web-based documentary navigate a multi-vocal narrative that links individual testimony and public evidence, social theory and biological research.
In boxing 'the distance' refers to the scheduled length of a fight, 9 rounds or 12, for the boxer, as for all of us, the goal is to stay standing.
Inside the Distance, documents victim/offender mediation practices in Belgium and shows how mediation poses a potential cultural alternative to dominant modes, methods and theories of justice and punishment. This work, which includes interviews with Mediators, Criminologists, Victims and Offenders conducted in Leuven and Brussels, focuses on the subject positions of victim, offender and mediator and the notion that those subject positions are fluid.
The structure of the project – a web documentary and an installation with video and a touch-screen interactive interface – is organized into three parts:
“the Accounts” – presents the narratives of mediation cases as described to me in interviews with Mediators. These narratives are visualized through staged enactments that represent the notion of being and holding accountable.
“the Positions” – addresses the instability of subject positions – as articulated by Victims, offenders and mediators through their own personal reflections
“the Spaces” – takes up the ethical, theoretical, and discursive space of justice and punishment and the public and political space mediated or, perhaps, governed through law and criminialization in statements made by mediators, psychologists and criminologists.
Criminal acts are rents in the fabric of the social order – expressions of something that doesn’t fit. The mediators interviewed for this project described how mediations almost always begin with a focus on the details – victims and offenders wanting to confirm each others’ understanding of what happened – who was hurt and how – followed by attempts to find some way to understand why.
INSIDE THE DISTANCE stages reenactments of this encounter as described by victims, offenders and mediators. It explores the subject position of each party - and the many ways in which those positions are fluid. Within Inside the Distance the space of mediation – the mediation table – is represented as a boundary object – a place of cooperation without consensus. At some level, at some moment, we are all victims - we are all offenders.
INSIDE THE DISTANCE is a co-production by LINC-KU Leuven, STUK Arts Centre, Courtisane, University of California Santa Cruz, European Forum for Restorative Justice, Suggonomè – Flemish Mediation Service, and funded by OPAK.
In Undoing Time the statements of men and women in prisons across California – those whose voices are rarely heard in debates on criminal justice policy, legislation and governance – are inscribed into products that are produced in prison factories. Each inscribed product is part of a multi-media installation module, which can be exhibited independently or in conjunction with other installation modules from Undoing Time. In each module the inscribed product is accompanied by a video or audio portrait of the quoted prisoner reflecting on his or her own experiences through speech and/or gesture. For example, in Undoing Time/RELIQUARY (above) and Undoing Time/HAUNTINGS (right) the boots and mirrors made and used by prisoners throughout California are labeled with QR codes that link viewers to the full audio of the interview from which the quote etched into the object is taken.
In the installation Undoing Time/PLEDGE a video portrait co-authored with former prisoner Beverly Henry (who worked in a California prison flag factory while incarcerated) is installed with two American flags produced in the flag factory where she worked during the years she was incarcerated at the Central California Women’s Facility. The text of an op-ed piece Beverly wrote on the 254th anniversary of Betsy Ross’s birth is embroidered into the stripes of the flags. In the video Beverly performs a symbolic act – undoing the stiches of one of the flags made in the prison factory - while she describes her own search for equality and democracy as a socio-economically marginalized person. In the op-ed text, and through her recorded statements, Beverly’s reflections on the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that the U.S flag purportedly represents, challenge us to examine the structural inequalities at the root of the extraordinary expansion of penal confinement in the United States.
Scroll down for documentation of Undoing Time | S.O.S.
In Undoing Time/S.O.S. targets produced in a prison print shop for police shooting practice are paired with a video portrait/interview of “Franky” - a 21-year-old man who, as a member of California’s notorious Norteño gang (both in and out of prison) has been trapped in a cycle of violence and punishment since he was 12 years old. The targets are perforated with laser-cut text - quotes that describe Franky’s experience as both a gang soldier and target of state and gang violence inside the maximum security facilities he has inhabited.