Installation view: Painting, Human Sculpture and Light Box by Eva Merz
What are they doing in there?
Exhibition at +44 141 Gallery, Studio Warehouse, Glasgow, 6 -14 June 2009
400 was the average number of prisoners during May 2009 at Cornton Vale, Scotland’s only women’s prison. That might not be a big figure, but it has doubled in a decade. In 1998, when it was below 200, the Scottish government promised to half the female prison population over the next ten years. Things have obviously gone wrong.
For nearly two years I have worked on this project and everything I have learned tells me that the situation is desperate for women in prison, not only in Scotland, but in the UK. I have visited Cornton Vale nine times, for meetings, interviews and on prisoner visits. One time, the Governor, Mr Gunn, took me on a tour of the prison and I saw a girl in a ‘suicide cell’. A nurse was appointed to watch her around the clock. That day there were six girls on suicide watch, but the record number is 33 in one day. The question is, what on earth are they doing in there?
This exhibition is the first manifestation of an on-going project about women in prison, criminal justice and politics - and campaigning for penal reform. This is about us, as a society, and what we can do to improve these problems. Through collaborations with a variety of people I wish to build bridges of understanding, provide well-researched information and challenge public perception of crime and punishment.
Eva Merz, Friday 5th June, 2009
11th June: Public Debate
Speakers: Baroness Vivien Stern, who has spent a lifetime campaigning for penal reform. Henry McLeish, former First Minister, who in 2008 chaired an independent commission into the future of Scotland’s prisons. Ian Gunn, Governor of Cornton Vale from 2006 to 2008.
Hosted by International Futures Forum
Gangster Girls by Tina Leisch
Documentary from a women's prison, Schwarzau, Austria, 2008 trailer
Auto Body by Suzanne Lacy
Documentary from Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women, New York, 1998
The Hopeless (Situation), Girl in suicide outfit being restricted by prison wardens. Still from 'Girls Behind Bars', BBC documentary (2008). Painting by Eva Merz, 120x160 cm (2008/09)
... available on poster: FEEL FREE
Preview night (photo: Angela Kruth) / Public debate (photo: Wes Kingston)
Opening night / Public debate
Gangster Girls, film screening
... the Human Sculpture
Very Special Thanks
Margaret Hannah and Governor Ian Gunn for supporting the project
New Social Art School folk for keeping it going
All the people who donated clothes to the Human Sculpture
The Studio Warehouse crew for helping out with everything
This project is funded by Statens Kunstfond, Denmark + Scottish Arts Council