Hank Willis Thomas and Dr. Baz Dreisinger : The Writing on the Wall

High Line Art, New York, United States
31 Oct 2019 - 10 Nov 2019

Rendering of The Writing on the Wall, MASS Design Group.

Rendering of The Writing on the Wall, MASS Design Group.

High Line Art announces The Writing on the Wall, a traveling installation composed of essays, poems, letters, stories, diagrams, and notes written by individuals in prison around the world. The installation is a collaboration between Hank Willis Thomas and Dr. Baz Dreisinger with Openbox, and designed by MASS Design Group.

The High Line will also present public programming around the topic of criminal justice in conjunction with the installation. The Writing on the Wall is the second project of the High Line Network Joint Art Initiative and in 2020 will travel to other Network sites including the BeltLine in Atlanta and the Rail Park in Philadelphia.

Emulating a prison cell, the presentation of The Writing on the Wall on the High Line will recreate these largely unseen spaces in a public sphere. The installation’s design references the palimpsest-like writing on the walls of prison cells and layers these onto opaque and transparent acrylic panels arranged in modules. The arrangement of the installation is based on measurements of cell blocks so that visitors can be fully immersed in the written and typed words of the incarcerated. The writings were accrued, with the authors’ permission, by Dr. Dreisinger during her years teaching in US and international prisons. As a presentation of the crisis of global criminal justice systems, these letters visually convey the narratives, thoughts, and emotions of the people behind bars.

In conjunction with the installation of The Writing on the Wall on the High Line, the park will present related public programming. On Sunday, November 10, from 12–2pm, criminal justice reform organizations will be stationed at information-sharing tables in the 14th Street Passage. Participating groups include We Got Us Now, The Bail Project, The Bail Project, Midtown Community Court and the Center for Court Innovation, and #CUT50’s Dignity for Incarcerated Women.

The Writing on the Wall: Take Action: November 10, 12–2pm

Additionally, the High Line Channel video program will screen videos the duration of the installation, nightly from dusk until park close. The selection of videos screened include Crime, Punishment and a Brazilian Supermax (2016), directed by Stephanie Black, produced by Beth Skipp and Dr. Dreisinger, with cinematography by Arthur Jafa; Nightmare: A Film about the Criminalization of Poverty Across the Globe (2018), directed and produced by Dr. Dreisinger and Alex Pope, provided by The Bail Project; and 2018 Love Letters: Mother’s Day and 2019 Love Letters: Father’s Day, Google-initiated Love Letters campaigns produced by Ebony Underwood, Founder/CEO of We Got Us Now.


About High Line Art

Founded in 2009, High Line Art commissions and produces a wide array of artwork, including site-specific commissions, exhibitions, performances, video programs, and a series of billboard interventions. Led by Donald R. Mullen, Jr. Director & Chief Curator of High Line Art Cecilia Alemani, and presented by the High Line, the art program invites artists to think of creative ways to engage with the unique architecture, history, and design of the park, and to foster a productive dialogue with the surrounding neighborhood and urban landscape.




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