Monday, May 08, 2006

Sing Sing (Ain't Got that Swing)

The TD posse took a fast train to Sing Sing Prison this weekend. We were in big trouble!

Actually, our friend is a volunteer art teacher at the prison, and invited us to see the inmates' art exhibition and stage show. The event was produced by an organization called "Rehabilitation through the Arts (RTA)" the name of which explains itself. Aside from making art, some inmates even earn college degrees while serving time (although no MFAs). Drawings and paintings ranged from tightly rendered, illustrative caricatures of rappers to poignant reflections on the prison experience. One prisoner drew the scene from his window, and then placed a box over the drawing, leaving only a narrow slot for viewing the picture. We understood the statement about constriction, and also recalled Duchamp's "Etants Donnes." One inmate even adhered found objects - a bundle of sticks (a faggot?) - to paper. This year's stage show was based in dramatic improvisation and music, but previous episodes featured "12 Angry Men" and even plays authored by inmates.

Naturally, but regrettably, cameras are prohibited of visitors to Sing Sing, as are sketchbooks and pencils. Actually, everything is prohibited. So use your imagination, as we use our memory.

The experience was a moral dilemma for us. We admired the inmates' rehabilitative efforts and earnest performances before strangers. On the other hand, we felt animosity towards these men who had committed violent crimes, and worried about how their victims' families. In the end, we concluded that we could support the rehabilitative programs, if not the inmates.

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