Temporary Services, Tamms Year Ten and Sarah Ross

Supermax Subscriptions 2008 – 2013 Offset poster, letters, envelopes Variable dimensions 

Supermax Subscriptions
2008 – 2013
Offset poster, letters, envelopes
Variable dimensions 

According to Solitary Watch, at least 80,000 prisoners are currently living in solitary confinement, of which 25,000 are under these conditions indefinitely. Prisoners remain in their private cells for 23-24 hours a day, without any contact with the outside world—no phone calls, community programs, work, or library access. Many studies have shown the detrimental psychological effects this environment imposes on individuals, yet 44 states now utilize it as a disciplinary tactic.

In 2008, a group of collaborators gathered in Chicago to sign, address and mail letters to every prisoner in Illinois’ Tamms C-Max Supermax Prison, a long-term solitary facility that closed on January 1, 2013 thanks to the persistent activist Tamms Year Ten campaign. In their correspondence they asked the men if they wish to participate in Supermax Subscriptions, a program that exchanges frequent flier miles with magazine subscriptions for individuals in solitary confinement. At the start of the program, many of the Tamms men had been in solitary for over a decade, despite the state’s original intent to hold prisoners there for up to two years. Responses to the letters came in almost immediately—Tamms’ prisoners wrote with their subscription preferences and the organizers matched them up with mileage donors. In offering this service, this project exposed the inhumanity of maximum-security facilities, and enabled individuals to infiltrate these secluded confines to make a meaningful contribution to the lives of those often forgotten inside.

Temporary Services is Brett Bloom, Salem Collo-Julin and Marc Fischer. They are based in Chicago, Copenhagen, and Philadelphia. They have existed, with several changes in membership and structure, since 1998. They produce exhibitions, events, projects, and publications. The distinction between art practice and other creative human endeavors is irrelevant to them. 

Tamms Year Ten is a grassroots legislative campaign that set out to reform or close the Illinois state supermax, launched at the ten-year anniversary of its opening. Tamms Correctional Center, one of the most notorious prisons in the country, was designed for sensory deprivation and caused lasting mental damage to the men held in isolation there. The volunteer effort was a collaboration between men formerly incarcerated in Tamms, their family members, advocates, artists, and legislators. In 2009, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn made the courageous decision to reform Tamms. In 2013, in spite of tremendous opposition from the guards union and downstate legislators, the governor shuttered the prison outright.

Sarah Ross is an artist who works in sculpture, video and photo. Her projects use narrative and the body to address spatial concerns as they relate to access, class, anxiety and activism. Ross also works collaboratively with other artists on projects such as Compass (of the MRCC), Regional Relationships, Chicago Justice Torture Memorials, and in 2012 she co-founded the Prison and Neighborhood Arts Project. She teaches at The School of the Art Institute Chicago and is the recipient of grants from the Propeller Fund, Graham Foundation, University of California Institute for Research in the Arts, and the Illinois Art Council. Some of her work has been exhibited in venues such as the Armory, Pasadena, CA; Gallery 727, Los Angeles; PS122, New York; Roots and Culture Gallery, Chicago; Pinkard Gallery, Baltimore; META Cultural Foundation, Romania, and the Canadian Center for Architecture, Montreal.
http://regionalrelationships.org  | http://chicagotorture.org | http://p-nap.org