“Degrees of Visibility,” an unprecedented photographic survey of the US prison system by Ashley Hunt, opens Friday, June 9 at the Eric Quezada Center for Culture and Politics, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m., 518 Valencia St. in San Francisco.
The exhibit, documenting over 250 prisons from all 50 states and US territories, is traveling to San Francisco, following its 2016 debut in Atlanta. The open features the release of a limited edition broadsheet and presentations by Bay Area organizations.
“Degrees of Visibility” remains open to the public through Tuesday, June 20.
Partnering with local organizations engaged in the discussion of today’s prison industrial complex, the exhibition is set up as a community platform for contemplation, discussion and strategy.
Each image in “Degrees of Visibility” is shot from a publicly available point of view and titled according to the number of people hidden within it.
Building upon the histories of Landscape Photography and its critique within Critical Documentary practice, “Degrees of Visibility” studies how contemporary prison architecture renders its punishment both hidden and illegible to the public, enabling today’s massive scale through its camouflage within the everyday.
“Degrees of Visibility” follows 17 years of Hunt’s dedication to prison issues, which began with his time-based media installations, “Housing, Process, Movement” (2000) and the feature documentary, “Corrections” (2001).
Beyond taking the prison as only a subject matter however, his work has consistently challenged how we think about audience and the function of art in relation to it, pushing against the separations between formal art spaces and those of organizing, while asking, in partnership with grassroots partners, what can this work do?
“Degrees of Visibility” extends his investigations into the spaces where we encounter prisons each day, often with little or no sense of what we have or have not seen.
The work studies this as a “politics of appearance, an aesthetic organization of our environment that has political effects, effects that are as integral to mass, industrial-scale imprisonment as its walls, fences, weapons, laws and cages,” according to Hunt.
As recent political changes in the U.S. threaten to reinvest in strategies of mass policing, surveillance and incarceration, and thus in their disproportionate impact on the poor and communities of color, we draw the attention of writers and members of the press to this exhibition, to its unique approach to art and political representation, and its involvement of important constituencies in San Francisco.
Hosted by the Center for Political Education, the June 9 opening event will include the release of a “Degrees of Visibility” limited edition broadsheet, featuring a conversation between Hunt and Rachel Herzing and Isaac Ontiveros staged at the historic free, Black settlement of Allensworth, California.
The evening also include brief statements from local organizations, including the Arab Resource and Organizing Center, Critical Resistance, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Freedom Archives, TGI Justice Project, and the Underground Scholars Initiative.