Spaik, Cix and Said Dokins create huge murals in the Maximum Security Penitentiary in Mexico. The three artists take us to a place far away from our daily sigh and time passing. It is a prison, that institution raised by the State as a place of exception, where social logics are interrupted, exacerbated, transformed; a punishment space that fulfils the double function of confining those who are inside, to isolation and punishment, and threatening those who are outside.
This is the CE.RE.SO. (Centre of Social Reinsertion) of Maximum Security for High Impact Crimes of Morelia, Michoacán. Around them, the landscape is composed by solid inextricable walls, kilometres of bars and wire fences, and gray overwashed uniforms that seem to constrain those who wear them.
This is the place where the three renowned Mexican artists bursted in to disrupt the space and the dynamics of its inhabitants for some days, cancelling the disciplinary routine. Strokes, colour, words, participation, evocation and imagination, became the key elements in the relationships of collaboration established by the artists with the People Deprived of Freedom (PDF) on the production of three great murals: “Puedes Volver a Volar” (You can Fly Again) by Spaik, “Estado Mental” (Mental State) by Cix, and “Memoria Canera” (Memories from Jail) by Said Dokins, the largest penitentiary murals in Mexico, an intervention without precedents in the country because of its dimensions.
To develop “Memories from Jail”, Dokins started by establishing dialogues with the PDF who collaborated with him, gathering phrases, experiences, words used frequently in the prison’s daily life, but also poems, long writings, tales, feelings… This fabric of words, life fragments, memories and shared emotions, was the base on which he traced a geometric figure symbolizing the crossroads we face in life, an unexpected concatenation of experiences that only make sense within the context of surveillance and control. In this piece, humour and irony, desires of freedom and justice, blend with the bitter pills of lockup life.
According to the artist, “Memories from Jail” is a reflection about identity, memory and the lives lived in jail. Underground culture that emerges in there, from the language, that includes the slang used in the place, the nicknames of the people, until the deepest thoughts about confinement and freedom.
This is a very special work because of the important impact it had in the community the artists worked with, as well as for the questions it opens regarding penitentiary politics and our ways our society administers justice.We hope you enjoyed this remarkable work that leads us to reflect on the importance of culture as a human right and the great potential of artistic practices to transform societies, as it points at the importance of install cultural policies in penitentiary contexts.