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Australian artists and inmates collaborate to make videos about the reality of life behind bars

A clip from the video Tether by the artist Maria about the inmate Karen's horse Salvatore
The a..



A clip from the video Tether by the artist Maria about the inmate Karen's horse Salvatore
The artist

Four young Australian artists have overcome a host of unusual hurdles to create collaborative video artworks with four inmates of Risdon Prison, near Hobart, Tasmania.

“The process of the artists and inmates making video works together, in a space where the inmates cant be identified, the prison cant be filmed and so much technology is prohibited, became not limiting but quite fascinating from a conceptual and material perspective,” says Grace Herbert of Hobart-based Constance ARI (artist-run initiative) who co-facilitated the project with her colleague Lucy Parakhina.

Parakhina says the project, titled Pink Palace after the nickname given to the formerly gaudily painted prison building, was “to commission works that represented the lived experience of people in incarceration, and opened up space for the inmates to have an equal creative role in their production”.

The videos are on view in a former Goodyear tyre building in Hobart from 9-24 June as part of Dark Mofo, a festival organised by David Walshs unorthodox Museum of Old and New Art just north of Hobart.

Risdon prison
Lucy Parakhina

The artist/inmate partnerships are Samuel and Kristy, Dexter and Patrick, Tess and Michael and Maria and Karen.

“The inmates arent allowed to be identified for ethical reasons, so the artists agreed to go with their first names too,” Herbert says.

The passing of time in incarceration was the loose theme of all the Pink Palace videos. Artist Marias work is a stop-motion video depicting a painted horse galloping. The inspiration for this was Salvadore, the imaginary horse which has comforted inmate Karen and slept at the foot of her bed. “(Salvadore) had been with her throughout her trial and sentencing and now lived with her in the prison,” Maria says.

“The next time I saw her, he had run away and she told me shed painted thousands of grains of rice green to look like grass, and left them in a bowl by her bed in an effort to coax him back. She also shared how at times shell call the prison guard on night duty, asking if theyll go and look for (Salvadore) in the prison grounds. She said some guards fulfil the request, saying theyre happy to do it if it helps her sleep.” When Maria showed Karen the finished video, Karen said: “Id hug you but Im not allowed to.”

The other artists said visiting Risdon, despite its difficulties, had been enjoyable. “Kristys generosity and dark humour have got her through, and they did me too,” artist Samuel said.

A short stroll up the street from the Goodyear building is perhaps the most bizarre of the Dark Mofo projects. Acclaimed and respected Sydney performance artist Mike Parr was interred below the bitumen surface of Hobarts busy Macquarie Street for 72 hours. Parr had water, but no food, and lived in a steel container measuring 4.5m x 1.7m x 2.2m.

Titled Underneath the Bitumen the Artist, the work was designed to "memorialise the victims of 20th-century totalitarian violence", including "the genocidal violence of 19th-century British colonialism in Australia", according to Dark Mofo. Parr resurfaced on Monday.

In her own words: the artist Maria, who worked with Risdon inmate Karen

The experience working with Karen has been intense and disturbing at times, but also very moving for me. Shes very busy in the prison with daily appointments, courses and jobs, so it was generous of her to be committed to this project. We met weekly and she was extremely open with me. Our relationship has been a curious unfolding because Im not really allowed to share personal information with her… but through the act of making a piece in response to her experience and sharing it with her, I feel we have a unique closeness I cant really compare to anything.

Her presence is at once commanding and vulnerable. Shes intelligent and complex, and speaks candidly about her history, often with casual dark humour relating to the more harrowing incidents. Her struggle with mental health is something she acknowledged throughout. She is very informed on the subject and well able to discern hallucination from reality. Part of her busy schedule includes receiving support from mental health professionals within the prison.

I knew from the beginning this collaborative piece wasnt going to be driven by a political critique of prison, but something more intimate from this person, exploring their narratives and the potential darkness of mental ill health, in the context of incarceration.

After hearing account after account from Karens personal history I was beginning to feel a bit lost in a sea of shocking, disturbing information. I couldnt sleep very well and ideas werent really developing in my conscious mind. (Constance ARI was very supportive and offered sessions with a specialist psychologist to all of us.) I knew Karen wanted to make some kind of linear story about a person who has dark times but gets through it in the end. She was also quite adamant about not being seen as a victim.

I was familiar with her dissociative hallucinations being part of her stories, and one day after an hour-long interview as I was about to leave, she spoke about Salvadore. He was a white horse who had been with her throughout her court appearances and now lived with her in the prison. The next time I saw her he had run away, and she told me shed painted thousands of grains of rice green to look like grass, and left them in a bowl by her bed in an effort to coax him back. The following week she had stuck hand-written signs up in her room pleading with him to return.

It was moving to see her innocent vulnerability through this coping mechanism, paradoxical to her generally tough exterior, and her willingness to disclose it was heartening. She also shared how at times shell call the prison guard on night duty asking if theyll go and look for him in the prison grounds. She said some guards fulfilled the request, saying they would be happy to do it if it helped her sleep.

At the time I was researching mental health, mythology and Jungs theories of the collective unconscious and the shadow self. I found myself having a recurring dream of four white horse legs trotting and galloping against a dark background. I felt a push to go with this imagery and explore it further. I discovered some interesting links with human movement, and imagery that echoed Karens mental state to me.

I decided to make a kind of cyclic representation of her mental struggle, with Salvadore representing not a happy ending as such, but something beautiful and protective that appears in the depth of her struggle. The weekly meetings continued and Karen was intrigued by the proposed idea, though neither of us could really picture the result.

I worked in a cold, blacked-out studio, making very loose and simple drawings using oil paint, and recording them in stop-motion animation format. Its a slow and laborious process that becomes automatic for me over time. I worked with a brilliant musician friend in Melbourne (Leni Philippe-Janon) for the sound.

When I could finally show Karen the work I was quite nervous, suddenly feeling the risk of relying on this semi-conscious practice and symbolism to communicate something so mysterious and personal to her… and also aware I didnt have much time to change it if she didnt feel it was successful.

Her response was that she felt very connected to the work, picking up on various images relevant to her, even some that had been unintentional for me. She requested I tweak a few things to do with timing and intensity, but the imagery really resonated for her and she watched it several times, just nodding. Before leaving she said: “Id hug you, but Im not allowed hug you” so we hugged ourselves before she went off to her next appointment.

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Leeds Festival: Bad Boy Chiller Crew get Yorkshire bouncing



Bad Boy Chiller crew may have started out as a bit of a joke online but on Friday they provided some serious party vibes as Leeds Festival got under way.

Bradford’s notorious bassline collective got a sea of bucket hats bouncing with their infectious energy and hilarious stage presence.

The rap-dance collective brought their dads/friends onstage for a rave, while downing booze in between spitting bars.

But they were enjoying themselves for so long organisers pulled the plug.

Having overrun, the fun-loving outfit had their microphones, decks and music silenced, drawing boos from revellers as they stormed off to make room for a “No Leeds on a Dead Planet” public service video about environmental concerns around the event.

West Yorkshire Police later said they arrested two people following an incident on stage at Leeds Festival shortly after 16:00 BST on Friday.

The pair were subsequently bailed, pending further enquiries.

‘Unashamedly Yorkshire’

In recent years, the rap trio, comprised of Gareth “GK” Kelly, Kane Welsh and Sam “Clive” Robinson have have been not so quietly working their way up the bill at their home county festival, rapping over old school dance beats.

They’ve gone from starting in the BBC Music Introducing tent to one of the main stages, where they looked very at home, leading the crowd in a chorus of “oggy oggy oggy”s.

Dressed in their crispest white shirts and big red ties, the local rappers – who recently starred in their own ITV2 docu-series – raced through verses from their recent mixtape and debut album, including 450 and BMW, as well new track When It Rains, It Pours (thankfully it didn’t, as the clouds covered the Yorkshire sun for the first time on Friday).

They raced through beer, cider and vodka at an (alarmingly) equally rapid rate, as a family friend known affectionately as Kitchen Steve twirled a cane in a head-masterly fashion and Kelly’s dad Hopper, wearing a Burberry outfit, threw out some serious shapes and hip shakes.

One Twitter user commented: “Omg! Bad Boy Chiller Crew. What is this?! It’s like [Welsh act] Goldie Lookin Chain on speed. There is even a ‘Bez'”.

Robinson even appeared to have had an influence on, or at least reflect, some of the festival-goers’ fashion senses, with mullets adorning the heads of young men at Branham Park, for possibly the first time in decades.

Rap music from around the UK regions, not just the capital, has become more prominent on the bill here in recent years. “It’s tongue-in-cheek funny and unashamedly Yorkshire,” wrote the BBC’s Will Chalk about Bad Boy Chiller Crew – who recently launched a fans for foodbanks initiative – in an interview two years ago, when they were just starting their journey to where they are now.

Earlier on Friday, emo rocker Willow Smith, daughter of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith brought the first big singalong of the day as the crowds began to arrive in the searing heat, with one of the songs of last year, her viral hit Meet Me at the Spot.

She followed it up with a new one of her own, Hover Like a Goddess. “Every woman is a goddess,” she beamed, drawing loud cheers.

Bastille did an early set on Friday evening, having just released an extended version of their latest album Give Me the Future.

They told the BBC that performing at the double header Reading and Leeds Festivals 10 years ago in a smaller tent – and hearing one of their softer songs sung back to them with gusto – was the first time they thought they were really on to something as a band.

“We had to stop because I was it was so blown away, it just was just so overwhelming,” said singer and songwriter Dan Smith.

“That was kind of amazing moment, as particularly as back 10 years ago, Reading and Leeds was much more like rock and heavy music. So as a as a weird little cinematic indie band, and being the massive cynic that I am, I was like, ‘what’s the crowd gonna make of us?’

“So to have that first experience all those years ago was pretty surreal.”

The Leeds leg of the Bank Holiday weekender was officially opened on Thursday evening by up-and-coming Sunderland indie rocker Tom A Smith, who recently supported Sir Elton John. Afterwards he told the BBC it was “without doubt the best [gig] I’ve ever done”.

“We had mosh pits and people singing my songs back,” said Smith. “It was absolutely insane, what an experience.”

Reading and Leeds Festivals take place across two sites and will feature headline performances at each from artists including The 1975, Dave, Arctic Monkeys and Megan Thee Stallion.

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On my radar: Moses Sumney’s cultural highlights



theguardian– Singer-songwriter Moses Sumney, 29, grew up between Ghana and California and studied creative writing and poetry at UCLA. His piercing falsetto and genre-defying music have brought him critical acclaim, starting with his self-recorded 2014 EP Mid-City Island, followed in 2017 by his debut album, Aromanticism, and the 2020 double album Græ. Sumney has collaborated with musicians including Bon Iver and James Blake and toured with Solange and Sufjan Stevens. His latest project is Blackalachia, a self-directed concert film created in association with WePresent, shot over two days in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina, where he lives.

1. TV

Selling Sunset (Netflix)

I pity anyone who hasn’t seen this show. It’s a reality show about a real estate agency in west Hollywood, and it follows the lives and deals of the people who work there, predominantly the female staff who are all ridiculously Barbie-ish – essentially “career Barbie on crack”. It’s incredible. I love reality TV – it tells us a lot about humanity. Reality shows are always inherently dated, so they’re a great capsule of the modern era.

2. Music

Don’t Be So Hard On Your Own Beauty by Yeule

I don’t know what it is about this song, but I’m addicted to it. Yeule is a Singaporean artist based in London who’s kind of new on the scene, and this song is just so hypnotising – it hints and winks at hyperpop while being an absolutely heart-shattering folk tune. It’s a beautiful amalgamation of a lot of different genres, and it’s stunning. I have a lot of playlists – for driving, for chilling at night, a morning playlist, a folk playlist – and this is in all of them.

3. Book

How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell

I’m currently reading this – I put off reading it because it looks like a self-help book – but it’s really fascinating. The author is an artist who works largely in digital art and the book is about how to free yourself from the capitalist trappings of the workforce – not necessarily saying “quit your job”, but suggesting a new path for work. It asks the question: how can we construct our identities apart from defining ourselves by what we do and by our income? It’s a very radical book, and it’s often a hard read. But it has been mind-shifting.

4. Place

Western North Carolina

I’ve been travelling a lot for work, so I’ve been thinking about how much I would prefer to spend my time in western North Carolina, particularly in the mountains, where I live. I think it’s the most beautiful place in the world. I first arrived in Asheville when I was on tour and knew immediately I wanted to live here. You turn around, 360 degrees in any direction, and you’re surrounded by trees, by the sound of animals, and that’s really a rare feeling for anyone who’s spent most of their life, as I have, living in the city.

5. Film

Eve’s Bayou (Kasi Lemmons, 1997)

This stars a young Jurnee Smollett, who recently had a resurgence with Lovecraft Country. She’s 10 years old in the film, which is set in a fictional small town in Louisiana. Samuel L Jackson stars as the patriarch of the family, who is maybe cheating on his wife, his daughter sets out to kill him and punish him, perhaps through witchcraft. It was incredibly critically acclaimed and subsequently snubbed by every major award ceremony. It’s a gorgeous, heartbreaking film. I first saw it last year and I think about it every day.

6. Fashion


The couture line that Balenciaga launched this summer is another thing that has permanent residency in my brain. I think that what Demna [Gvasalia, creative director] is doing with sculpture and architecture through fashion is some of the most interesting theatre of our time. It’s like a marriage of Romantic and gothic style – it’s a bit ecclesiastical, almost monastic, and I want it all. There’s this really wonderful circular headpiece that feels like: “I’m going to service, but in the year 3021.”

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Hong Kong’s famous Tiananmen Square ‘Pillar of Shame’ statue removed from university



cnn– For more than 20 years the “Pillar of Shame” sculpture stood as a memorial to the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, in which the Chinese military crushed protests led by college students in Beijing with deadly force.
Atop a podium in the University of Hong Kong’s (HKU) campus, the 26-foot-tall (8 meter) statue of contorted human torsos was one of the last iconic memorials to victims of the bloody crackdown remaining on Hong Kong soil.
But around midnight on Thursday, yellow construction barriers were erected around the statue and the sounds of cracking and demolition were heard as the sculpture was removed under the cover of darkness.
Images taken during the removal process show workers wrapping the statue in protective film and lifting it out of the campus on a crane in two distinct parts. The HKU Council, the university’s governing body, said in a statement the sculpture will be held in storage.
A witness said Thursday morning the site of the sculpture is now empty and students have been seen crying on campus following the removal. CNN agreed to not disclose the name of this witness because the person feared retribution from authorities.
That fear of retribution is common among those who speak out against authorities in Hong Kong since Beijing imposed the National Security Law on the city in 2020, punishing offenses such as subversion and secession with sentencesof up to life in prison.
The HKU Council said in a statement the removal “was based on external legal advice and risk assessment for the best interest of the university.”
The sculpture, which stood in the Haking Wong Building of the university, was part of a series of works by Danish artist Jens Galschiøt created in 1997 — the year Hong Kong was returned to China after more than 150 years of British rule. The sculpture includes the inscription: “The old cannot kill the young forever,” and was built to serve “as a warning and a reminder to people of a shameful event which must never reoccur,” according to the description on Galschiøt’s website.
Galschiøt called the statue’s removal “a very hard attack against the free word in the world.”
He told CNN that he hopes to bring the statue back to Denmark so he can reassemble it. His wish is to then bring it to Washington D.C., where he hopes to place it in front of the Chinese Embassy. There, it will serve as a message to Beijing that the massacre is remembered and spoken about, he said.
For three decades, Hong Kong has been the only place on Chinese-controlled soil where an annual mass vigil has been held to mark the events in and around Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.
The clampdown remains one of the most tightly censored topics in mainland China, with discussions of it scrubbed from mass media. Chinese authorities have not released an official death toll, but estimates range
from several hundred to thousands.
After the 1997 handover, the continuation of the vigil and similar memorials were seen as a litmus test for Hong Kong’s ongoing autonomy and democratic freedoms, as promised in its de facto constitution.
However, in the wake of national security law, scores of prominent pro-democracy politicians and activists have been jailed or fled the city, and numerous civil society groups have disbanded.
Attempts to commemorate the events of June 4 have also been adversely impacted.
The last two Tiananmen vigils have been banned by police, citing coronavirus restrictions. Prominent activists, including Joshua Wong and media tycoon Jimmy Lai, were later jailed for participating in an unauthorized public commemoration in 2020.
A Hong Kong museum dedicated to the victims of June 4 was forced to close earlier this year and moved its entire collection online citing “political oppression.”
And on Friday, two more Tiananmen Square crackdown memorials were also removed from Hong Kong campuses.
The Chinese University of Hong Kong took down a “Goddess of Democracy” statue, stating it never authorized the display in the first place. The original figure was built out of papier-mâché by student protesters at Tiananmen Square in May 1989. A bronze replica was created by China-born New Zealand artist Chen Weiming and brought to the CUHK campus in 2010.
Lingnan University similarly removed a relief by the same artist, saying it “may pose legal and safety risks to the University community.”
Following news that the HKU “Pillar of Shame” sculpture was being dismantled, the artist Galschiøt wrote on his Twitter account, “I’m totally shocked that Hong Kong University is currently destroying the pillar of shame. It is completely unreasonable and a self-immolation against private property in Hong Kong.”
“We encourage everyone to go out to Hong Kong University and document everything that happens with the sculpture,” he added in a statement.
In its statement, HKU Council said, “No party has ever obtained any approval from the University to display the statue on campus, and the University has the right to take appropriate actions to handle it at any time.”
It added the university “is also very concerned about the potential safety issues resulting from the fragile statue. Latest legal advice given to the University cautioned that the continued display of the statue would pose legal risks to the University based on the Crimes Ordinance enacted under the Hong Kong colonial government.”
Efforts to preserve the memory of the sculpture are already underway, with art-activist group Lady Liberty Hong Kong creating a 3-D model made using more than 900 photos.
“The idea is that everyone can print a copy it and place it wherever they want,” said Alex Lee, the founder of the group. “In the digital age, there’s no limitation of what you can do with virtual or physical objects — (the hope is) for everyone to try to preserve this symbol.”
According to Lee, the statue represented something of the fundamental difference between Hong Kong and mainland China. “It (the statue) symbolized that Hong Kong still has room for the freedom of speech and it really means that Hong Kong is still a different part from China,” said Lee. “But then I think right now, that last really small space is gone.”
On Sunday, Hong Kong’s first “China patriots only” legislative election witnessed a record low turnout, reflecting a steep decline in civic and political engagement following Beijing’s overhaul of the city’s electoral processes earlier this year.
Following the vote, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam traveled to Beijing and met with Chinese Leader Xi Jinping, who endorsed her administration and praised her for moving the city “from chaos to order,” according to a government statement of the meeting.
Calling the election — in which turnout was just 30.2% — a “success” Xi said the city had “made solid progress in promoting democratic development that suits Hong Kong’s reality.”
“The democratic right of Hong Kong compatriots has been shown,” Xi said.
A number of Hong Kong activists who fled abroad labeled the election — in which prospective candidates were first screened by the government — as a “sham,” a criticism echoed by many rights groups and international observers.
Top image: Workers remove part of the “Pillar of Shame” into a container at the University of Hong Kong on December 23, 2021.

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