Thursday, November 17, 2011

Francesco Patriarca

An expression of violence rather than justice that brings confusion and legalized revenge rather than real confrontation with than dark side of human beings.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Loren Santow

photograph © 2011 Loren Santow 


Dubious testimony by a purported eyewitness landed Steven Smith on death row

June 30, 1985, Virdeen Willis Jr., an off-duty assistant warden at the Illinois penitentiary in Pontiac, was shot to death outside the Shamrock Lounge on the south side of Chicago. Steven Smith, 36, who had been drinking in the bar, was charged with the crime after he was identified by a woman named Debrah Caraway, who claimed to have witnessed the murder. It was Caraway's testimony that ultimately sent Smith to death row, but that testimony was dubious for several reasons.

First, Caraway had been smoking crack cocaine. Second, she claimed Willis was alone when the killer stepped out of shadows and fired the fatal shot, but two other witnesses said they were standing beside Willis when he was murdered. Third, Caraway's boyfriend, Pervis (Pepper) Bell, was an alternative suspect in the murder. Finally, Caraway, according to her account, was across the street when the crime occurred and, while she positively identified Smith, the two persons who were standing beside Willis were within only two or three feet of the killer and could not identify Smith.

On February 19, 1999, the Illinois Supreme Court held that Caraway's testimony was less reliable than the contradictory testimony of the other witnesses and reversed the conviction outright, ordering Smith's release from prison. Smith's case is unusual in that the error was corrected without the intervention of volunteers outside the system.

text from the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University. Chicago, IL

Monday, November 7, 2011

Barrie Maguire

In the United States, the sole remaining industrialized nation that has not abandoned the capital punishment, killing another person (as opposed to locking them up forever) has become a purely political issue, instead of a humanity issue. Sad. 

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Ed Carpenter


"Vessel", completed in July 2008, is a centerpiece for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Rising more than four stories in a transparent and searching gesture, this monumental but delicate sculpture employs light to represent the optimistic spirit of the institution. It is a luminous container for the aspirations and hopes of all involved. By juxtaposing native plantings with crystalline structure, it suggests a variety of dualistic metaphors: natural and technological, intuitive and rational, transparent and opaque, formal and informal. This "basket of light" expresses the dynamism of the Center in the way light and shadows play off, through and around the combinations of materials. Its interwoven structure represents the interconnected and collaborative nature of the Hutchinson Center.

"Vessel" works on an urban scale, marking views along various axes, as well as on a human scale, allowing passage into and through the leafy core or the sculpture itself. As the vegetation surrounding “Vessel” matures and honeysuckle vines grow up its lattice structure, the interior space will be extraordinary for its delicate light and combination of intimacy and monumentality. Hourly, daily, and seasonal changes in the light and vegetation will make the sculpture an abstract sundial as well as symbol of transformation. Its' classic form, attractive materials, and hierarchy of scales will give "Vessel" universal appeal regardless of whether experienced from a passing car, adjacent building, or passage on foot through its center.

"Vessel" faced a challenging structural issue in that the site requires a tall sculpture to address axial views and to be in scale with surrounding buildings, but there are serious weight restrictions due to the load limits of the tunnel structure beneath. This dilemma was addressed with a design that is lightweight in spite of its monumentality. Employing aluminum, stainless steel, and slender strips of dichroic and beveled glass, the sculpture achieves both goals simultaneously. In an unusual innovation, laminated and tempered safety glasses were used structurally to strengthen the section of the aluminum members, allowing longer spans at lighter weight than with conventional methods.
Client: Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

Title: "Vessel"
Winning Competition Design, May 2006
Installation completion: July, 2008
Dimensions: 39' diameter wide x 60'  high.
Materials: Aluminum, stainless steel,  laminated dichroic glass, beveled  clear plate glass, concrete,  landscape vegetation.
Drawings & Renderings: Oanh Tran &  Michael Gregg.
Construction Drawings and project  coordination: Oanh Tran
Project Administrator: Arleen  Daugherty.
Structural Engineering: Grant Davis  and KPFF Consulting Engineers
Lighting Design: C.E. Marquardt
Metal Fabrication and Erection: W.A.  Botting Co.
Structural Rings: Albina Pipe
Cable and fittings: West Coast Wire  Rope
Glass Installation: Carpenter crew
Site work: Lease Crutcher Lewis
Electrical: SASCO
Photos: Ed Carpenter

I have never understood capital punishment.  Whether there is redemption in another life I do not know, but I have to believe in at least the possibility of redemption here on earth, and that makes capital punishment a rash and pessimistic practice that leads us toward darkness not light.

Margaret Scott

Friday, November 4, 2011

Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller

The Killing Machine

Partly inspired by Franz Kafka's 'In the Penal Colony' and partly by the American system of capital punishment as well as the current political situation, the piece is an ironic approach to killing and torture machines. A moving megaphone speaker encircles an electric dental chair. The chair is covered in pink fun fur with leather straps and spikes. In the installation are two robotic arms that hover and move- sometimes like a ballet, and sometimes attacking the invisible prisoner in the chair with pneumonic pistons. A disco ball turns above the mechanism reflecting an array of coloured lights while a guitar hit by a robotic wand wails and a wall of old TV’s turns on and off creating an eerie glow.

In our culture right now there is a strange deliberate and indifferent approach to killing. I think that our interest in creating this piece comes from a response to that.
Robot arm design: Carlo Crovato
Music: “Heartstrings” by Frieda Abtan
Percussion assistance: Titus Maderlechner


Tip tap tip tap. Is that the sound of dripping or is it someone in a cell tapping a code on the wall? Now there are many more tapping sounds. Far and near. Loud and soft. Now someone is banging on a pipe, now a cupboard. Now the hall is filled with a cacophony of beats, working their way back and forth, a PANDEMONIUM of percussion.  Using the existing elements in the prison cells Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller have made the entire Cellblock Seven into a giant musical instrument, producing a percussive site work. This instrument, controlled by a computer and midi system, is made up of one hundred and twenty separate beaters hitting disparate xobjects such as toilet bowls, light fixtures and bedside tables found within the prison cells. The composition begins subtly as if two prisoners are trying to communicate and then moves through an abstract soundscape and lively dance beats until it reaches a riot-like crescendo.

The massive Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world.  Its gothic, castle-like towers stood as a grim warning to lawbreakers in the young United States. This was the world’s first true “penitentiary,” a prison intended to inspire profound regret – or penitence—in the hearts of criminals. The influential design featured cellblocks extending like the spokes of a wheel; each inmate lived in solitary confinement in a vaulted sky-lit cell. The prison itself had running water and central heat before the White House, and once held many of America’s most notorious criminals, including bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton and Al Capone.

Eastern State closed in 1971.  The prison stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and a place of surprising beauty. Cardiff and Miller present Pandemonium in Cell Block Seven, a massive, cathedral-like, two-story wing completed in 1836. It has never been open to the public, and has been stabilized especially for this exhibition.
Sound composition: Titus Maderlechner

I don't understand a culture that focusses so much on punishment especially when our scientists show us how all of us are connected at the atomic level. We need more compassion in our culture.