< back to schedule

Questioning Aesthetics Symposium: Prisons and Art @ CCA

April 28, 2016
9:00am  -  5:00pm
Nahl Hall, California College of Art

Questioning Aesthetics Symposium: Prisons & Art
California College of Art, Oakland, CA
April 28, 2016 — 9:00-5:00
Co-Sponsored by the California College of Art &
the Transdisciplinary Aesthetics Foundation

QAS-Prisons & Art is a Pre-Conference Event
for the 2016 Open Engagement Conference on “Power”
April 29-May 1, 2016 — Oakland Museum of California


*This event is free and open to the public.


9:00-9:45        Introduction to Prison Aesthetics—Michael Kelly


Moderator:  Michael Kelly

Speakers:     Rachel Herzing, “Untitled”

        Laurie Jo Reynolds, “Untitled”


Moderator:  Annabel Manning

Speakers:     Dee Hibbert-Jones & Nomi Talisman, “Aesthetics and the Death Penalty: Last Day of Freedom and the Ripple Effect—Can Film Make Change?”

       Ashley Hunt, “Against the Very Body of the Prison: On the Aesthetic Regime of Mass Incarceration”

12:30-2:00        Lunch


Moderator:  Shalani Agrawal

Speakers:     Raphael Sperry, “Questioning Prison Design: Critique and Activism”

        Sharon Daniel, “Undoing Time”

        Annabel Manning, “Jail Art Initiative: Contrasting Inmate Visual

& Poetic Portraits”

3:30-5:00        Roundtable

Moderator:  Michael Kelly


The goal of “Questioning Aesthetics Symposium: Prisons & Art” is to develop a transdisciplinary aesthetic critique of art’s roles in the apprehension, recognition, and abolition of the prison industrial complex (PIC), inspired by Angela Y. Davis: “The prison is one of the most important features of our image environment.” However, she adds, “This has caused us to take the existence of prisons for granted.” So one task of aesthetics is to critique the images of the prison in the arts and media that make it difficult for the public either to apprehend and recognize PIC or to acknowledge the urgency and possibility of its abolition. Looking ahead, another task of prison art and aesthetics is “to envision life beyond the prison,” to explore creatively “new terrains of justice, where the prison no longer serves as our major anchor” (Are Prisons Obsolete?). In this light, aesthetics and art can be allies of prison activism.

Art stands under the law of the given, while transgressing this law.”

“The inner logic of the work of art terminates in the emergence

of another reason, another sensibility, which defy

rationality and sensibility in the dominant social institutions.”

—Herbert Marcuse, The Aesthetic Dimension



Shalini Agrawal, Director, Center for Art and Public Life; and Adjunct Professor, First-Year Community Arts, California College of Art: https://www.cca.edu/academics/faculty/sagrawal

Sharon Daniel, Film & Digital Media, UC Santa Cruz; produces interactive and participatory documentaries focused on issues of social, economic, and criminal justice: http://www.sharondaniel.net/#about

Rachel Herzing, co-founder of Critical Resistance, a national grassroots organization dedicated to abolishing the prison industrial complex: http://criticalresistance.org/about/

Dee Hibbert-Jones, Art & Digital Art New Media, University of California Santa Cruz.  Current Oscar nominated film and interactive project is created with the families of prisoner  on death row. Founder & Co-Director SPARC at UCSC.  Co-director/co-producer of Last Day of Freedom: http://deehibbert-jones.ucsc.edu/

Ashley Hunt, Co-Director, Program in Photography and Media Faculty, California Institute of the Arts; and Director, The Corrections Documentary Project: http://www.ashleyhunt.org/

Michael Kelly, Philosophy, UNC Charlotte; Editor, Encyclopedia of Aesthetics (Oxford UP); President, Transdisciplinary Aesthetics Foundation: http://transaestheticsfoundation.org

Annabel Manning, Community Artist-in-Residence, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art & Mecklenburg Country Jail, Charlotte; works with undocumented Latina inmates: www.annabelmanning.com

Laurie Jo Reynolds, School of Art and Art History, University of Illinois at Chicago; organizer of the Tamms Poetry Committee + Tamms Year Ten campaign to reform and close Tamms supermax; decarceration advocate; working on media/messaging/arts strategy about collateral damage from current laws for people with sex offenses; teaches interdisciplinary courses in “Decarceration in Theory and Practice” and “Prison Aesthetics and Policy”—http://artandarthistory.uic.edu/profiledetails/330/315

Raphael Sperry, President, Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility, Berkeley; works for peace, environmental protection, ecological building, social justice, and the development of healthy communities: http://www.adpsr.org/

Nomi Talisman, Artist & filmmaker, San Francisco; co-director/co-producer of Oscar nominated film Last Day of Freedom created with the families of prisoners on death row: http://nomitalisman.net/

2016 — Oakland  Pre-Conference