Marking Time: Prison Arts and Activism Conference
Organized and Hosted by the Institute for Research on Women, Rutgers, New Brunswick
October 8-10 2014

Keynote speaker: Reginald Dwayne Betts, Poet and Author of A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison and Shahid Reads His Own Palm.

Film Screenings

**All screenings will take place in the Ruth Dill Johnson Crockett Conference Room, Douglass Campus.

10:30AM: MICKEY B (2007)
Produced by Tom Magill, 62 min [Q&A to follow]
An award-winning adaptation of Macbeth, set in the fictional Burnam Prison. It tells the story of one prisoner’s quest for power through violence, betrayal and murder – and the death and insanity that results. The film was shot in NI’s maximum-security prison, HMP Maghaberry and features 42 characters played by prisoners and prison staff.

Produced by Marisa Belausteguigoitia Rius and Mariana X. Rivera, 58 min [Q&A to follow]
Murals and Mirrors: Women Resisting Walls exhibits the way in which women inside a  jail in México City took over the walls that imprisoned them. How may walls- prison walls- cease to be opaque and grey and begin to function as mirrors and illuminating surfaces? Through a unique collaboration of the fields of art, justice from below and pedagogies in resistance, Murals and Mirrors depicts the appropriation of  prison's space.  Prison time and rhetoric are transformed trough the intervention of art, collective work and pedagogies of disent. By narrating the design  of four monumental murals inside prison, this documentary describes the History of  Justice in México  vis a vis the trepidant, distorted and invisible history of women "before the law."

3:00PM: POTLACH (2014)
Produced David Adler, 11min, 30sec  [Q&A to follow]
Potlatch is a 2 channel video piece about an arts and dance festival of the same name at a prison in Colorado.

By artist Sylvia Schwenk, 4 min loop
This short experimental film shows a man the artist invited to perform – dancing with a lawnmower to a harrowingly beautiful waltz, whilst mowing the lawn in an area surrounded by perimeter fencing, alarmed fences, and razor wire. The lawn being mowed is an oasis in the maximum security area of a prison. The space offers a respite from the confinement of the prison cells and the cold metal surfaces and concrete of the prison. waltz is filled with hope but is underwritten with a score of despair.

By artist Sylvia Schwenk, 5 mins loop.
This short film relays five stories about life in prison in an understated, matter of fact, yet private and almost humourous way. The stories are told in the third person and are set against images and footage of the inside of a prison and cover such aspects as prisoner processing, visiting procedures and sex. The experimental short film looks at the notion of what performance in the everyday means for those who live in a space where private and public co-exist - sometimes simultaneously. The film makes the inaccessible accessible in a simple and engaging way.

Directed by Duston Spear, 20 min
*A project of the NYFA / recipient of a NYSCA grant in Film 2013 and additional support from the Puffin Foundation
Multi media includes Judy Clark’s poems ( inmate at Bedford Hills Correctional serving 75 years for driving a get away car in the Brink’s Robbery 1981) put to original music by Michael Minard, and sung by Ann Casapini

Red Thread is “ a story of misplaced revolutionary desire for justice, defiance of the establishment, and thirty plus years behind bars, where (Judy) Clark has transformed herself and her mission. This is a tale of tremendous longing and accomplishment, lost and regained motherhood, twentieth-century history, and the courage of both prisoner and painter, resulting in a work that fuse transcendent beauty and jolting social truths.”       Lucy R. Lippard

Directed by Hank Rogerson; produced by Jilann Spitzmiller. Philomath Films, 93 min [Q&A to follow]
Take Shakespeare's final play The Tempest with its violent seas, windswept island, crucial connection to nature, and underlying theme of forgiveness, and bring it into the Luther Luckett Correctional Complex, the ultimate venue of confinement. The result is an extraordinary story about the creative process and the power of art to heal and redeem--in a place where the very act of participation in theatre is a human triumph and a means of personal liberation. Led by Shakespeare Behind Bars Founder Curt L. Tofteland, whose innovative work with prison inmates began in 1995, the prisoners cast themselves in roles reflecting their personal history and fate.  The prisoners' individual stories, including information about their heinous crimes, are interwoven with the plot of The Tempest as they delve deeply into the characters they portray while confronting their personal demons.

11:00AM: PRISONERS OF AGE (2004)
Directed by Stan Feingold, produced by PeaceArch films, and, 60 min
The documenatry explores, illuminates and extends photographer Ron Levine’s groundbreaking project with geriatric prisoners. Journeying with Levine on a series of photo shoots in Canadian and American prisons, we discover why he has embarked on this artistic pursuit, what he seeks to reveal, who his subjects are and why we should care. With Levine as our gateway, the film provides an immersion into the world of the aging prisoners, revealing a number of important social issues surrounding the aging prison population, and bringing forth the personal dimension of this human tragedy.

Produced and directed by Michelle Handelman, 27 min [Q&A to follow]
Beware The Lily Law is a public art piece by Michelle Handelman that uses the 1969 Stonewall Riots as a starting point to address issues facing gay and transgender inmates. Performed by Becca Blackwell and Michael Lynch, Handelman developed these monologues based on the experiences of real transgender inmates, as well as the personal experience of each performer. Now in its fourth year on display at Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, the multi-media installation has brought much attention to the plight of transgender inmates.

Produced by Bruce A. Levitt, 20 min [Q&A to follow]
Where the Walls Contain Everything but the Sky documents the work of the Phoenix Players Theatre Group (PPTG) at Auburn Correctional Facility--a maximum-security prison in upstate New York.  What makes this prison theatre organization unique is that PPTG is a grassroots program developed by and for incarcerated persons and communities in a maximum- security prison.  The heart of the film is how the men see theatre as a discipline that leads them through a process of personal transformation, and even redemption.

3:00PM: HERMAN’S HOUSE (2013)
Directed by Angad Sing Bhalla, 90 min
Herman Wallace may be the longest-serving prisoner in solitary confinement in the United States. HE spent more than 40 years in a 6-by-9-foot cell in Louisiana. Imprisoned in 1967 for a robbery he admits, he was subsequently sentenced to life for a killing he vehemently denies. Herman's House is a moving account of the remarkable expression his struggle found in an unusual project proposed by artist jackie sumell. Imagining Wallace's "dream home" began as a game and became an interrogation of justice and punishment in America. The film takes us inside the duo's unlikely 12-year friendship, revealing the transformative power of art.


This program is made possible by a grant from the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations in this program do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.

This program has also been made possible by generous support from the Puffin Foundation Ltd.

Co-Sponsors: Alfa Art Gallery; American Friends Service Committee’s Prison Watch Program; Art Library-Rutgers New Brunswick; Associate Campus Dean of Douglass Residential College; Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities; Department of American Studies, Rutgers-New Brunswick; Department of History, Rutgers-New Brunswick; Heldrich Hotel; Institute for Women and Art, Mountainview Program; New Brunswick Public Library; Office of the Chancellor of Rutgers-New Brunswick; Office of the Executive Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers-New Brunswick; Prison Creative Arts Project at the University of Michigan; PUEG Center at UNAM (National University of Mexico); Rutgers-Camden Center for the Arts; School of Criminal Justice at Rutgers-Newark; Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers-New Brunswick.

For more information, email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.