Date: Sat, 28 Aug 1999 15:26:25 EDT
Subject: For your information
Thought you folks might be interested in a project I am working on in Texas. It's called The Waiting Room and opens in Huntsville, Texas at the Sam Houston Memorial Museum on Jan 5, opening reception on Jan 15 and the first (of four) Community Conversations on that date as well.. It will be in Huntsville until Feb. 25 and then move to the University of Texas at Arlington from March 8 to April 25 and then to the Art League gallery in Houston from May 30 to July 1.
The Waiting Room is an interactive installation that seeks, through the evocative power of art, to create the emotional, social, physical and cultural environment that is a death row waiting room. It looks like so: There are thirteen long signs, 4'x13', made from sheet lead, that hang from the ceiling and proscribe one's behavior in the space. They say things like, "keep your hands in sight at all times," "no excessive kissing; kissing may be done only at the beginning and end of a visit," etc. There are three vending machines where one can get a "last meal" ( I have a list of ALL the last meal requests from every inmate in the state of Texas since 1982.) One can put a slug into one of the machines and get out a cast lead (weighs 11#) meal from a particular inmate on a tray. Carry the tray and go and sit down with this "meal." Embossed into one side of the tray is the name of the inmate, crime convicted and sentenced for, and date of execution. On the other side of the tray is the name of the victim(s), and the circumstances. The third component is a wall of water vapor (steam), and projected onto it is a pendulum swaying back and forth (obviously, time passing is the thing which drives this context) with the audio of an endless ticking of time passing and the sound of a heart beat starting and stopping periodically. The fourth component is a series of video monitors that show interviews with mother of death row inmates, parents of murdered children, those from the correctional community, politicians, etc. Along with the installation are a series of Community Conversations that bring together the various voices that engage this issue.
I have long felt that politics doesn't work; education, certainly public education in California and many other states as well, has fallen victim to the prison industrial complex; And religion, well religion, is still pretty divisive. So my thinking is we should try art. Give it a chance. We never really have. Let it do what it does best: reveal, heal and transform.
Contact F. David Peat