American Made Maryland Art Place April 29 - May 27, 2017
American Made: Mass Production | Mass Incarceration was presented by the Maryland Institute College of Art’s Exhibition Development Seminar Class (EDS) at Maryland Art Place from April 29 to May 27, 2017.
The class was led by faculty member Jeffry Cudlin. The exhibit was organized and curated by students Sera Boeno, Cynthia Fang, Maya Fell, Betty Gonzales, Sukhmani Kaur, Joe Leonard, Zoe Moldenhauer, Lucas Nelson, and Jenna Rayman.
Work in American Made included an installation by Philadelphia-based artist Jesse Krimes; text and photos by San Francisco-based anthropologist Sandra Cate and photographer Robert Gumpert; videos from the Real News Network presented by Baltimore-based artist Bashi Rose; painting by Philadelphia-based artist Russell Craig; new drawings by Angelo, in collaboration with Chicago- based collective Temporary Services; posters by New York-based designer and artist Josh MacPhee; and zines and other publications including The Beat Within by David Inocencio (San Francisco), Tenacious by Victoria Law (New York), and assorted zines from Chicago ARA/ABC Zine distro courtesy of Anthony Rayson (Chicago).
American Made: Mass Production / Mass Incarceration reveals how U.S prisons exploit the labor of incarcerated individuals, and how these individuals use creativity as a means of resistance.
Today, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Our criminal justice system holds more than 2.3 million people, most of whom are required to work, yet receive little or no compensation. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, inmates working for state-owned businesses typically receive between 33 cents and $1.31 per hour; non-industry jobs in prison pay an average of 87 cents an hour. Corporations like McDonald’s, Whole Foods, and Wal-Mart rely on and profit from inmate labor. While prison wages are actually lower today than they were in 2001, prisoner debt has exploded in recent years, thanks to daily fees on everything from transportation to blankets and toilet paper—and new surcharges for every unpaid fee.
In response to this rampant profiteering, prisoners, their loved ones, activists, and artists subvert methods of mass production for self-expression. American Made includes original artworks created from prison-issued objects; drawings and photographs that show how prisoners create their own food, tools, and culture from the limited and overpriced goods available behind bars; and zines, guerrilla publications, videos, performances, and workshops designed to help people navigate and resist the system and amplify incarcerated voices.
The title of the show is taken from the Federal Prison Industries corporation UniCor’s mission statement. UniCor sells inmate-made products to government agencies, state schools, and non-profits at competitive market prices, defining itself as “not about business, but about inmate release preparation.” Yet very few prison jobs teach skills relevant to the labor market, and given the low wages inmates earn, the fees they accumulate, and the barriers to housing and benefits they will encounter upon release, many are likely to stay in the system.
American Made is presented by MICA’s Exhibition Development Seminar (EDS).