It is difficult then to delve into the past and exhume whole passages of injustice, especially when those passages operate inside of a system one believes to be good. In doing so, one must discuss the significance of trauma, peel back old wounds and attempt in some way to make peace. Or perhaps it isn’t about making peace at all. Perhaps it is instead about admitting and honoring discomfort, frustration and unhappiness, for while it is horrific to admit that there are cracks in the systems we employ, it is worse to gloss over or deny them. The Chicago Torture Justice Memorials Project (CTJM) addresses these issues directly, engaging a local history of police brutality to create a platform for public monuments and discourse.
Rather than cover up those horrific moments, CTJM seeks to uncover and air out the darker edges of our past and present, pulling them into focus with the help of survivors, artists, activists, community organizers and lawyers. Together, they invited proposals “for speculative ways to memorialize the torture cases,” in an attempt “to honor the individuals, families, and communities affected by torture, as well as address the obstruction of justice that has occurred in the aftermath.” That call was issued in 2011 and asked for anything from “from architecture to haiku, website to mural, community organization to performance, bronze plaque to large-scale memorial.â€
“Opening the Black Box: The Charge is Torture”Â is features 70 of those proposed monuments at SAIC’s Sullivan Galleries. The exhibit is Â named after a particular torture device (the “black box”) that was used by Officer John Burge to coerce confessions from 1972-1991. Burge is responsible for as many as 200 incidents of torture, many of which involved electrical charges that shocked prisoners. Although legal routes had granted some success, many of the case advocates (lawyers, victims and activists alike) felt that the law was unable to offer adequate retribution. They turned to art. “Opening the Black Box: The Charge is Torture”Â is one aspect of that process. It is open until December 21st.
Complementing the theme of that exhibit, the Sullivan Galleries are hosting two additional shows: Laurie Jo Reynold’sÂ Tamms Year Ten Campaign Office,where Reynold’s has effectively installed a working office from which to advocate for the closing of Tamms: a “supermax” prison on the southern tip of Illinois. It opened in 2008, intended as a site for “super shock” treatment that would not extend beyond a year. Now, something like 1/3 of Tamm’s prisoners have been there, non-stop for a decade.”[Inmates] live in long-term isolationâ€”no phone calls, no communal activity, no contact visits. They are fed through a slot in the door. Prisoners at Tamms only leave their cell to shower or exercise which they are allowed to do, depending on their behavioral level, from zero to 7 times per week. Exercise is solitary, in a concrete pen.” Reynolds and her collaborators (including former inmates and inmate family members) also work to connect inmates to the outside world in some way â€” including, for instance, taking photographs of certain objects at the prisoners’ request. Requests include “the Masonic temple in DC”, “whatâ€™s left where the Robert Taylor Homes used to be”,Â “a heartsick clown with a feather pen”, “my mom in front of a mansion with money and a Hummer”, “Michelle Obama planting vegetables in White House garden”, “any Muslim Mosque or Moorish Science Temple in Chicago or Mecca or Africa”, and “fallen autumn leaves (which we do not have access to in the â€œconcrete boxâ€ which is deemed a yard here)”. During their residency at the Sullivan Galleries, Tamms Year Ten continues their regime of activism while planning additional public programs.
Tirtza Even’sÂ Preview: An Assembly fromÂ Natural Life (work-in-progress),Â which Â describes itself as “aÂ feature-length documentary produced by SAIC faculty Tirtza Even alongside the legal efforts of the Law Offices of Deborah LaBelle. The work challenges the inequities in the juvenile justice system by telling the stories of several individuals sentenced to die in prison since youth. The project’s goal is to depict the experiences of these youths who receive the most severe sentences available for convicted adultsâ€”a sentence of ‘natural life’ or life without paroleâ€”against the contexts of social bias, neglect, apprehension, and alienation.”
It’s a tremendous line up with much to think about and discover and there are a few additional events on the horizon well worth checking out.
Saturday November 17Â Claire Pentecost will facilitate a conversation around Photo Requests from Solitary. Men housed at Tamms supermax prison were able to request a photograph of anything in the world, real or imagined, and members of the public realized the pictures. Men formerly housed in Tamms, the family members of current inmates, and other special guests will be on hand to view the photos and respond to the project.
Thursday November 29 Kevin Coval, Darby Tillis, Achy Obejas, Gary Younge, Quraysh Ali Lansana, Krista Franklin and others present I AM A MEMORY: Chicago Writers Against Torture. This evening of readings and performances is dedicated to the survivors, their families, and their communities who endured unspeakable acts of torture at the hands of the Chicago Police.
Saturday December 15 brings the final program. A Film Festival Against Torture presents a daylong screening of three powerful films about torture, featuring discussions with the filmmakers: Peter Kuttner, Cyndi Moran, and Eric Scholl; Jackie Rivet-River and John Lyons; Ines Somer and Kathy Berger.
Work by Alberto Aguilar, Peter Fagundo, Julia Fish, Michelle Grabner, Jessica Labatte, Nick Ostoff and Allison Wade. Organized by Michael Milano and Jeff M. Ward.
Adds Donna is located at 4223 W. Lake St. Reception Sunday, 4-7pm.
Work by Laura Letinsky.
Valerie Carberry Gallery is located at 875 N. Michigan Ave. #2510. Reception Friday, 5:30-8pm.
Work by Jordan Eagles.
International Museum of Surgical Science is located at 1524 N. Lake Shore Dr. Reception Friday, 5-9pm.
Curated by Oliverio Rodriguez, with work by Jordan Avery, Beatriz Aquino, Shandi Hass, Kiam-Marcelo Junio, Nicole Ricket, Jackie Rivas, Hannah Rodriguez, Ali Scott, Jannah Tate, Dana West, Sky White, and Nikki Woloshy.
Sullivan Galleries is located at 33 S. State St. 7th Fl. Reception Friday, 4:30-7pm.
Work by Joel Ross and Jason Creps.
moniquemeloche is located at 2154 W. Division St. Reception 4-7pm.
Roots and Culture, 1034 N. Milwaukee Ave. Reception Friday 6-9pm.
Curated by Nicholas Steindorf, with work by Tom Costa, EJ Hill, Betsy Odom, Industry of the Ordinary, Mary Mattingly, Rusty Shackleford, Joey Weiss and Darren Will.
Kunz,Vis,Projects, 2324 w. Montana, in the garage. Reception Friday 6-9pm.
Work by Jay Heikes.
Shane Campbell Gallery, 673 N. Milwaukee Ave. Reception Saturday 6-8pm.
Work by Josef Aguilar, Michelle Anderson, Emilie Bennett-Kjenstad, Daniel Bertner, Alexandra Calhoun, Sarah Campbell, Edward Chong, Esther Chow, Tory Christopherson-Sommerfeldt, Francisco Cordero-Oceguera, Jessee Crane, Kristina Daignault, Theodore Darst, Sam Davis, John Deardourff, Stephanie Del Carpio, Claire Demos, Ben Dimock, Lara Dorsett, Kait Doyle, Jay Fernandez, Brandy Fisher, Charles Fogarty, Jasmine Grant, Christopher Grieshaber, Alison Groh, Yo Ahn Han, Zachary Harvey, Caitlin Hennessy, Danielle Jacklin, William Joyce, Ellie Younjeong Jung, Matthew Keable, Cindy Myung Jin Kim, Minkyung Kim, Elizabeth Kovach, Hyun Jee Kwon, Youjeong Kwon, Melissa Leandro, Christina Joorie Lee, Kang Hoon Lee, Kyusun Lee, Sulhwa Lee, Sarah Legow, Jiyeon Lim, Matthew Litwin, Elyse Mack, Elizabeth Mallery, Mark Mcwilliams, Caroline Moody, Alicia Moreno, Mara Mullen, Drew Noble, Eileen Oâ€™Donnell, Alp Oz, Mark Palmen, Jiha Park, Kaitlin Patterson, Heather Platen, Lou Regele, Thomas Roland, Camila Rosas, Nathan Scealf, Nicholas Schleicher, Jules Schmid, Noelle Sharp, Sam Sieger, Kollin Strand, Eric Tai, Geoffrey Thais, Claire Valdez, Sarah Welch, and Nayeon Yang.
Sullivan Galleries, School of the Art Institute, 33 S. State St., 7th fl. Reception Friday 6-8pm.
Work by Daniel Danger.
Rotofugi Gallery, 2780 N. Lincoln Ave. Reception Friday 7-10pm.
Work by Conrad Freiburg.
Hyde Park Art Center is located at 5020 S. Cornell Ave. Reception is Sunday from 3-5pm.
Work by Jason Smith, Caroline Carlsmith and Leo Kaplan.
Pentagon Gallery is located at 2655 W. Homer St. Reception Friday from 7-11pm.
Work by Isabelle Gougenheim, Emily Irvine, and Emilie Crewe.
Noble & Superior Projects is located at 1418 W. Superior St. Reception Friday from 6-10pm.
School of the Art Institute of Chicago Spring BFA Show.
Reception Sullivan Galleries is located at 33 S. State St., 7th Fl. Friday from 7-9pm.
Exhibition to benefit JDRF juvenile diabetes. $1 at the door.
Gallery Provocateur is located at 2125 N. Rockwell St. Reception Saturday from 8pm-midnight.
Ever fantasized about being interviewed by the venerable Richard Holland and Duncan Mackenzie of Bad at Sports? No? Well….maybe you’re feeling bored and just need something to do tonight? Okay, good enough! Come hang out with Duncan and Richard from 5-7pm tonight at the Sullivan Galleries at SAIC, where our podcasters-in-chief will be ready and willing to interview all comers. So come! Talk to Richard and Duncan about your art, your life, your secret hopes and most shameful desires. Get it all out there and off your chest. Interviews may be broadcast on a future episode of the podcast…you never know.Â This is part of the Summer Studio program taking place right now at the Sullivan Galleries, and there are a bunch of other acts, I mean artists, who are opening up their on-site spaces for you to check out as well. The full lineup includes the aforementioned Bad at Sports along with Elise Goldstein, Georgia Kotretsos, Diego Leclery, Adia Millet, Jennifer Mills, Libby O’Bryan & Elissa Papendick, John Riepenhoff, Miller & Shellabarger, Cauleen Smith, and Marjorie Welish. Hope to see you there!