Cameron Rowland and the Carceral Laboratory – Cameron Rowland与实验室

On 21 August, prisoners in facilities across the US and Canada launched a strike in response to a riot at Lee Correctional Institution in South Carolina. They issued a list of ten demands, including: the end of prison slavery, life sentences and felon voter disenfranchisement; improved prison conditions; and the re-instatement of Pell Grants for education. Meanwhile, from Greece to California, the world  is literally going up in flames as a result of droughts and rising global temperatures. In California, incarcerated firefighters are conscripted  to contain these wildfires – one of the many ways that the neoliberal state  relies on the labour of warehoused populations to manage capital’s negative ‘externalities’. The strike began, fittingly, on the 47th anniversary of the killing of George Jackson, the American black activist and author, by prison guards  in San Quentin, San Francisco. 

In 2016, two Nomex fire suits – produced by prisoners and distributed by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Prison Industry Authority – hung in New York’s Artists Space. The suits (1st Defense NFPA 1977, 2011, 2016) were part of Cameron Rowland’s first major institutional show, ‘91020000’. Rowland’s work grapples with the continuities between slavery and incarceration, as well as with the commodification of prisoners themselves through the development of new financial instruments. The Nomex suits are used to clothe California’s 4,300 prisoner firefighters and Rowland’s title draws attention to their high-risk placement on the front lines. 

Prisoners are not only used in extraordinary and dangerous situations, they also produce quotidian goods and provide public services. From the fabrication of university desks to the maintenance of Boston’s subway system, public life has developed a parasitic dependence on those it confines. In Rowland’s ‘91020000’, most of the objects – courtroom benches, extension rings for manholes – were produced by prison labour. The show’s title refers to the customer number assigned to Artists Space by Corcraft, the state entity that sells prisoner-produced goods on behalf of the New York State Department of Correctional Services. Within the exhibition context,  augmented by the artist’s sensitive historical commentary, these items connote larger structures of power. 

By compelling Artists Space to engage in a relation of exchange with Corcraft, Rowland demonstrates that it is not just corporations that benefit from hyper-exploited prison labour. Non-profits such as Artists Space, given their tax-exempt status, are eligible to purchase prisoner-produced goods. As Rowland points out in the written statement that accompanied ‘91020000’,  the neoliberal state indexes the productivity of prisoner labour in terms of savings rather than profits. Thus, incarcerated firefighters, who are paid as little as one dollar an hour, ‘save’ the state US$100 million annually. But not only does the state ‘save’ by compelling prisoners to work: prisoner labour has historically been used to expand both state and commercial capacity through road construction and the maintenance of public infrastructure. Felons have also worked in high-risk industrial jobs through the convict-lease system (now technically abolished) and produce the furniture used in the very courtrooms in which people are subjected  to legal punishment. In other words, by expanding state capacity, prisoners are compelled to contribute indirectly to the conditions of their own displacement from society. Rowland’s work exposes these circuits of confinement, production, exchange and speculation; art itself is a node in the meshwork of the market society. 

I wonder: how many of the everyday commodities I use contain the spectral presence of prisoners? Was the coffee I drank today packed by prisoners? I think about the larger structures directing the unceasing flow of money, people, objects and time, and of the legal frameworks that undergird these flows. I wonder why a desk made using prison labour deemed to be worth US$0.16 to $1.25 an hour is so much more ‘valuable’ in the context of a gallery space, which leads me, in turn, to ponder the gallery’s commodification of critiques of itself. Rowland attempts to subvert this commodification apparatus by leasing his works to collectors for five-year periods rather than selling them to speculators seeking ownership of pieces they hope will appreciate in value. 


Cameron Rowland and the Carceral Laboratory - Cameron Rowland与实验室

Cameron Rowland, 1st Defense NFPA 1977, 2011, 2016, Nomex fire suit, distributed by CALPIA, 127.00 × 33.02 × 20.32 cm. Rental at cost

"The Department of Corrections shall require of every able-bodied prisoner imprisoned in any state prison as many hours of faithful labor in each day and every day during his or her term of imprisonment as shall be prescribed by the rules and regulations of the Director of Corrections." – California Penal Code § 2700

CC35933 is the customer number assigned to the nonprofit organization California College of the Arts upon registering with the CALPIA, the market name for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Prison Industry Authority.

Inmates working for CALPIA produce yellow Nomex fire suits for the state's non-inmate wildland firefighters.

Courtesy: the artist and ESSEX STREET, New York

While ‘91020000’ used material objects to make viewers aware of the ‘slave labour’ and power structures concealed in quotidian items, Rowland’s 2017 Whitney Biennial piece, Public Money, is a performative engagement with an immaterial financial technology called the Social Impact Bond (SIB). SIBs are a kind of private-public partnership that enable governments to contract the private sector to solve or improve specific social problems, and to pay bond holders revenue if the project succeeds. Intended as financial instruments that transfer risk from the public to the private sector, their complex contracts can guarantee payment regardless of success. By siphoning public money that could be spent on the direct provision of public goods and transferring it to the financial and non-profit sectors, SIBs could be considered a covert and convoluted method of privatization. In short, SIBs expand the domain of capitalist accumulation by enabling the private sector to make bets on social outcomes. As academics Zenia Kish and Justin Leroy write in their 2015 essay, ‘Bonded Life’: ‘Contemporary financiers benefit twice from the conditions of neoliberalism; they profit by “solving” the very social problems they have helped create and/or benefit from.’

The first UK SIBs were introduced with the aim of reducing recidivism among those released from HM Prison Peterborough. It’s not surprising that this new financial instrument was first tested out on felons. Prisoner SIBs, as social experiments, partly constitute what I call ‘the carceral laboratory’, in which the state contracts private entities to draw on the efficiency of the market or cutting-edge technologies to trial new approaches to solving a social problem. Such experiments often emerge out of calls to reform unjust systems.

For Public Money, Rowland compelled the Whitney Museum of American Art to invest US$25,000 into a SIB designed to reduce recidivism in Ventura County, California. Is it purely coincidence that Ventura has become the site of a venture philanthropic experiment? And what are we to make of the title, Public Money? The project itself reveals the blurred distinction between public and private, particularly in relation to art institutions. Without reading Rowland’s statement, the work might  be interpreted as an attempt to force  the museum to make a socially responsible investment and improve the lives of criminalized people in Ventura. But, since Rowland is aware that SIBs ‘marketize social services and their recipients’, what does it mean for him to embed the Whitney in a market circuit that contributes to the financialization of public goods? Rowland’s statement also reveals the biopolitical dimension of the Ventura project, which is focused on administering moral reconation therapy to prisoners – a behaviourist programme aimed at rewiring the ‘dysfunctional’ moral circuitry of  the ‘criminogenic’ subject. Such programmes locate the problem of mass incarceration in a specific kind of individual constructed as morally depraved and in need of Pavlovian reform.

Rowland writes that, for Public Money, the Whitney received information provided only to investors about the Ventura Project to Support Re-entry, and that this information is protected by a five-year non-disclosure agreement. Accessing such data is difficult given the opacity of the financial sector, but what if it is made public? How might an intentional breach of contract and the collectivization of private financial knowledge have changed the nature of the piece? What would it mean, performatively, to embroil an art museum in a situation that would put them at risk of being sued? Would  it transform the role of the museum from impartial exhibitor to informant?  

Rowland’s recent work exposes two distinct modes through which the carceral state and capitalism generate revenue and profits from mass incarceration: through the expropriation of prisoners’ labour and through financial speculation on prisoners themselves. In the carceral laboratory, felons become the testing ground for new financial technologies and methods of social engineering. Yet, this summer’s prisoners’ strike – which ended on 9 September, the anniversary of the 1971 uprising at Attica Correctional Facility in upstate New York – offered a strategy for disrupting these exploitative circuits. Bennu Hannibal Ra-Sun of the Free Alabama Movement has theorized the strike as a strategy to undermine carceral capitalism: ‘No state’s prison budget’, he writes, ‘can withstand the loss of our collective economic might.’ 

Published in frieze, issue 199, November-December 2018, with the title ‘Where Do We Go From Here?’

Main image: Cameron Rowland, Jim Crow, 2017, Jim Crow rail bender, 91.4 x 20 x 44 cm. Rental

Jim Crow is a racial slur, derived from the name of the minstrel character played by Thomas D. Rice in the 1830s. A Jim Crow is also a type of manual railroad rail bender. It has been referred to by this name in publications from 1870 to the present. The lease of ex-slave prisoners to private industry immediately following the Civil War is known as the convict lease system. Many of the first convict lease contracts were signed by railroad companies. Plessy v. Ferguson contested an 1890 Louisiana law segregating black railroad passengers. The Supreme Court upheld the law as constitutional. This created a precedent for laws mandating racial segregation, later to be known as Jim Crow laws.

Courtesy: the artist and Galerie Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin

Jackie Wang

Jackie Wang lives in Cambridge, USA. She is the author of Carceral Capitalism, which was published in February by Semiotext(e).

Issue 199

First published in Issue 199

November - December 2018

Features /

Cameron Rowland
Jackie Wang
Decolonizing Culture
Art & Politics
Artists Space
New York
The Whitney Museum of American Art
Carceral Capitalism

8月21日,由于南卡罗来纳州李惩教所发生骚乱,美国和加拿大各地监狱的囚犯发起了罢工。他们提出了十项要求,包括:结束监狱奴役、无期徒刑和剥夺重罪选民的权利;改善监狱条件;以及重新发放佩尔教育补助金。同时,从希腊到加利福尼亚,由于干旱和全球气温上升,世界实际上正在熊熊燃烧。在加利福尼亚,被监禁的消防队员被征召去控制这些野火,这是新自由主义国家依靠仓库工人来管理首都的负面“外部性”的许多方式之一。这场罢工,恰好是在美国黑人活动家George Jackson和旧金山圣昆廷监狱看守人杀害第四十七周年纪念日。2016,两个NoMeX消防服——由囚犯生产并由惩教部和Rehabilitat分派。监狱工业管理局,悬挂在纽约的艺术家空间。西服(第一国防部NFPA 1977, 2011, 2016)是Cameron Rowland第一次大型机构秀“91020000”的一部分。罗兰的工作致力于解决奴隶制和监禁之间的连续性,以及通过开发新的金融工具使囚犯自己商品化。诺梅克斯的套装是用来给加州4300名囚犯消防员穿上衣服,罗兰的头衔让人们注意到他们高风险地被安置在前线。囚犯不仅用于特殊和危险的情况,他们还生产日常用品,并提供公共服务。从大学办公桌的制造到波士顿地铁系统的维护,公众生活已经发展成寄生虫式的依赖。在罗兰的“91020000”中,大多数物品——法庭长凳、人孔扩充环——都是由监狱工人制造的。该节目的标题是指“飞艇艺术家空间”的顾客编号,飞艇是代表纽约州惩教服务部销售囚犯生产的物品的州实体。在展览的背景下,加上艺术家敏感的历史评论,这些项目意味着更大的权力结构。通过迫使艺术家空间公司与克洛夫特公司进行交换,罗兰公司表明,不仅仅是公司受益于炒作。R剥削监狱劳动。非营利组织,如艺术家空间,鉴于其免税地位,有资格购买囚犯生产的商品。正如罗兰在伴随“91020000”的书面声明中所指出的,新自由主义国家以储蓄而不是利润来衡量囚犯劳动的生产率。因此,被监禁的消防员每小时只需支付一美元,“每年节省国家1亿美元。”但是,国家不仅通过强迫囚犯工作“拯救”囚犯:历史上,囚犯劳动一直被用于通过道路建设和公共基础设施的维护来扩大国家和商业能力。重罪犯还通过定罪租借制度(现在技术上废除)从事高风险的工业工作,并生产人们受到法律惩罚的法庭所用的家具。换言之,通过扩大国家能力,囚犯被迫对自己从社会流离失所的状况作出间接贡献。罗兰的作品揭露了这些限制、生产、交换和投机的循环;艺术本身是市场社会网络中的一个节点。我想知道:我每天使用的商品中有多少含有囚犯的光谱存在?我今天喝的咖啡是囚犯包的吗?我想到了引导货币、人、物和时间不断流动的更大结构,以及支撑这些流动的法律框架。我想知道为什么在画廊空间里,一张用监狱劳动制作的桌子每小时价值0.16到1.25美元要比这贵得多,这反过来又促使我思考画廊对自身批评的商品化。罗兰试图通过把他的作品租给收藏家五年来颠覆这个商品化装置,而不是把它们卖给投机者,他们希望这些作品能增值。陆地,第一防御NFPA 1977, 2011, 2016,NoMeX消防服,分布于卡尔皮亚,127×33.02×20.32厘米。“按成本出租”惩教部对任何州监狱中监禁的每名身体健全的囚犯,应当按照惩教署署长的规章制度规定,在监禁期间每天和每天要求多少小时的忠实劳动。加州刑法_2700 CC35933是在非营利组织加州艺术学院注册时分配给该学院的客户号码,该协会是监狱工业管理局加州矫正和康复部的市场名称。在CALPIA工作的囚犯为国家的非囚犯野火消防员生产黄色诺梅克斯消防服。礼貌:艺术家和ESSEX街,纽约。虽然“91020000”使用实物让观众意识到隐藏在日常用品中的“奴隶劳动”和权力结构,罗兰的2017年惠特尼双年展作品《公共金钱》则是与非物质金融技术被称为社会影响债券(SIB)。SIB是一种公私伙伴关系,使政府能够与私营部门签订合同,以解决或改善特定的社会问题,并在项目成功时向债券持有人支付收入。作为将风险从公共部门转移到私营部门的金融工具,它们的复杂合同可以保证支付,而不管是否成功。通过抽取可用于直接提供公共产品的公共资金并将其转移到金融和非营利部门,SIB可以被认为是一种隐蔽和复杂的私有化方法。简而言之,通过使私营部门对社会结果下注,SIB扩大了资本主义积累的领域。正如学者Zenia Kish和Justin Leroy在他们2015年的论文《债券生活》中写道:“当代金融家两次从新自由主义的条件中受益;他们通过“解决”他们帮助创造和/或受益的社会问题而获利。”ED的目的是减少从HM监狱彼得伯勒释放的累犯。这项新金融工具首次在重罪犯身上进行测试并不奇怪。作为社会实验,囚犯SIB部分构成了我所谓的“动物实验室”,其中国家与私人实体签订合同,以利用市场或尖端技术的效率来试验解决社会问题的新方法。这种实验经常出现在改革不公正制度的呼声中。为了筹集公共资金,罗兰迫使惠特尼美国艺术博物馆向加利福尼亚文图拉县旨在减少累犯的SIB投资25000美元。Ventura已经成为一个风险慈善实验的场所,这纯粹是巧合吗?那么,我们要怎么称呼公款呢?该项目本身揭示了公共和私人之间的模糊区别,特别是与艺术机构有关的区别。如果不读罗兰的声明,这项工作可能被解释为试图迫使博物馆作出对社会负责的投资,并改善文图拉被定罪者的生活。但是,既然罗兰意识到SBS对社会服务和他们的接受者进行市场化,他将惠特尼嵌入一个有助于公共产品金融化的市场循环中,这意味着什么?罗兰的声明还揭示了Ventura项目的生物政治维度,它的重点是管理囚犯的道德治疗——一个旨在重新编排“犯罪学”主题的“功能失调”道德行为的行为方案。这样的方案解决了在道德沦丧和需要巴甫洛夫改革的特定类型的个人中的大规模监禁问题。罗兰写道,为了公共资金,惠特尼只向投资者提供了有关Ventura项目支持重新进入的信息,并且这一信息受到五年不披露协议的保护。考虑到金融部门的不透明性,访问这些数据是困难的,但如果公开了呢?故意违反合同和私人金融知识集体化会如何改变作品的性质?那么,艺术博物馆在一个让他们有被起诉的危险的情况下,意味着什么呢?它会把博物馆的角色从公正的参展商转变为线人吗?罗兰德最近的工作揭示了两种截然不同的模式:通过没收囚犯的劳动力和对囚犯本身的金融投机,这种模式使残酷的国家和资本主义从大规模监禁中产生收入和利润。在实验室里,重罪犯成为新的金融技术和社会工程方法的试验场。然而,今年夏天的囚犯罢工——结束于9月9日,1971年纽约州北部阿提卡惩教所起义周年纪念日——提供了破坏这些剥削性线路的战略。自由阿拉巴马运动的本努·汉尼拔·拉森(Bennu Hannibal Ra-Sun)将这次罢工理论化为破坏残酷资本主义的战略,他写道:“没有哪个州的监狱预算”能够承受我们集体经济实力的损失。我们从这里去哪里?主要形象:卡梅伦罗兰,Jim Cro


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