Carceral Sublime 2020

Mitchell Oliver

To Cite this Article

Mitchell, O. (2022). Carceral Sublime 2020. p-e-r-f-o-r-m-a-n-c-e, 6.

I.  Introduction & Research Statement

Life’s everyday technologies are designed[1]  to reinforce specific perspectives that permeate our awareness until they become second nature. By extracting, reiterating,[2] and manipulating those elements, which I categorize as time and duration, the body and somatics, and representation and visuality, I attempt to display key components in the coevolution of cultural and technical systems within a personal framework. This is how I study the trajectory and intersection of historical and contemporary phenomena, for example, tracing the current state of neoliberalism, algorithmic panopticism, and mass incarceration back to the conception of the novel, the sublime, and penal incarceration.

My practice draws on a working background in community radio, documentation, landscaping, and food service to look for entry points to deeper systems of consumption, replication, and exchange. Materially, focusing on moving image, sound, installation and performance asserts the value of durational and corporeal experiences as methods for critical inquiry. Thematically, projects often integrate the interrupting/irreverent capacity shared by humor, noise, and embodiedness which can subvert institutional patterns of meaning-making.

Bodies, as the amalgams of flesh and bone that we use to navigate the physical world,[3]  are an incredibly complex and potent site for self-knowing or capitalist extraction.[4] My installations use visceral experiences to highlight the body’s presence and way of knowing as a direct line to a more felt place of consciousness. That physicality is highlighted as an action, choice, or mode of experience – in other words, how an installation directs the body reveals a formal decision to be considered when reading the work.[5]

Studies in visuality[6] show how classification, separation, and aestheticization are used to append authority to power and render it natural. Though visuality isn’t limited to visual information, sight is often the primary material and consequently a focal point for my work. My end goal isn’t to create captivating images, but to frame looking in ways that reference or challenge the right to do so. I feel caught between enjoying or destroying the enduring pleasure of looking and want that tension to resonate with the viewer.

I’m interested in how time is constructed culturally,[7] how it’s reduced into increasingly incrementally-measured parcels,[8] and what the consequences of linear human-centric time are.[9] In my work, repetition and autopoiesis call linearity into question, durational systems foreground time scales outside our perception, and experiential installations and performances invite or challenge present-mindedness.[10] In a moment, how can you distinguish the ephemeral from the eternal? How can changes be introduced to an endless cycle? These might feel like quixotic questions, but I believe they’re at the core of deconstructing and replacing complex and interconnected institutions like neoliberalism and white supremacy.

II.  Origins of Neoliberal Body/Time/Visuality

These days,[11] we are all[12] contending with increased isolation[13] and control of our bodies and time at the mercy of technological forces which justify themselves with the “laws” of economics and aesthetics. I approach this contemporaneously with my installations and contextualize that understanding with the historical research investigates penal reform circa 1800 in order to add context to the contemporary abolition and reform movements.[14]

Neoliberalism, as the revival[15] of 19th-century free-market ideas, has an incredibly dense history. 19th-century liberalism pushed for recently-developed economic theories to be adopted as laws of nature, and ever since they have been present in society as a kind of second nature.[16] There’s a level of validity to these concept-laws like the model of supply and demand, but they are by definition approximations necessitating abstraction, which becomes problematic when the models are presented as proof.[17] The abstraction, or more specifically the abstractor, must make choices about what is in or out of the model, and this selection creates an othering effect.

Within the wide application of liberal policy, I focused on the birth of penal incarceration at the turn of the 19th century.[18] Early America’s leaders[19] had a set of problems. First, capitalism’s “efficiency” necessitated the categorization and separation of delinquent bodies from the more useful public. Second, they inherited plagued penal systems[20] from England and wanted a newer, better, American way.[21] Third, though mostly still Christian, they were trying to invent more secular presences of authority[22] and associated paths to redemption. In the system they conjured to remedy all of this, time replaces the body,[23] the private state replaces the public community,[24] observation translates to power,[25] and the “autonomous” market replaces social decision-making.[26] Benjamin Rush[27] and the other prison architects were the well-intentioned philanthropists of the day[28] designing systems to improve society that impacted prison construction worldwide.[29] Rush saw crime as a “moral disease” and decided that forced extreme asceticism, as the exact opposite conditions from the jails of the day, would be a fitting remedy.[30] How and why Rush and others made that exact leap of faith is less certain – John Bender found theories in the novel,[31] and I’m investigating the sublime as an aesthetic confirmation of the theory of penal incarceration.[32] This is my case study for art having real impact on policy based on it’s implied logic and hierarchy: if visual systems align with sociopolitical philosophy, then those aesthetics become tools for entrenching it as natural cultural phenomena.

How an artwork can direct the body is what fueled my first attraction to the lineage of sublime painting from Caspar David Friedrich to Barnett Newman, many years ago. In the time between then and now, I’m thankful for the writers[33] who have literally fleshed out the theory of the natural sublime. The original logic of the sublime rested on an innate design of excluding an other,[34] but the power of the sublime as an affective device and psychological reckoning of spiritual significance makes it a topic worth unraveling.

Freeman located her arguments in the coincident rise of the concept of the sublime in eighteenth-century European culture and the novel as a literary form, while John Bender did the same with the novel[35] and the social construction of penitentiaries. Bender touches on the sublime as a philosophical concept, but not really in an aesthetic or visual sense. Even though a later chapter is titled “The Aesthetic of Isolation as Social System” it surprisingly leaves out any reference to sublime landscape painting;[36] this gap could be because I’ve missed something, or due to discrepancies in space and time. Battersby and Bender focused on Europe, which maybe didn’t experience as much of a significant cultural effect with the sublime as the US did, considering our genocidal mission of westward expansion. This could be part of the explanation between the contemporary US’s world-leading incarceration rate of 655 per 100,000 people, while England & Wales is 113th with a rate of 139.[37] Additionally the authors centered on the 18th century, during which visual representations of the sublime were still latent. The literary argument serves as a distinctly linear cause and effect, with the advent of the novel preceding that of the penitentiary system by roughly 100 years. On the other hand, sublime painting and the penitentiary burgeoned virtually simultaneously, perhaps in one of these moments of feedback that I’m so interested in.

III. Penitentiaries and the Creation of a Carceral Sublime

This research investigates incarceration as a cultural crisis-response which has morphed into its own socioeconomic disaster. Specifically, penal incarceration as a response to “crime” (or “transgression” in the style of Coyle), which spiraled into mass incarceration in the decades after 1970. I imagine this has parallels with other instances of disaster: the destructive element is not truly the thing perceived to be causing damage – “criminals,” hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, etc. – but instead it is our approach to preparing for and responsding to these conditions that wreak havoc. A world without nature would certainly be safe from natural disasters, but hardly a reality or even a desirable utopia. Questioning the idea of “natural,” research indicates that “crime” is a regular component of every society, if not every citizen (Coyle, 2018; Wright, 1978), and even our concept of nature is suspect (Cronon, 1995; Finney 2014). Through simple temporal restructuring, declaring something as an emergency renders it as a thing of crisis–an immediate point and not a durational constant–therefore warranting additional state controls like the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (USA PATRIOT Act), which generally extend thier power beyond the bounds of the relevant crisis. Back to penitentiaries, in the U.S. they have evolved and merged with other cultural hegemony over a 250-year history, most notably the toxic soup of colonialism, slavery, racism, white supremacy, and gender and sex discrimination–which could be paraphrased as the Racist Imperialist Patriarchy (Saleh-Hanna, 2017)–in order to become the mass incarceration that most of the political spectrum recognizes as a catastrophe.

The United States is generally more willing to mobilize around symptoms than root causes, but penal incarceration was actually a flawed attempt at holistic treatment. Mass incarceration can be seen as a compilation of disasters brought together in a perfect storm. I won’t cover the details of mass incarceration here (instead recommending Angela Davis as a primer, or the NAACP Criminal Justice Fact Sheet), but since 1970 the U.S. rate of incarceration rose approximately 500%, becoming the world’s leading jailer with a rate 1.5 times that of Russia, coming in at number two with 474 per 100,000 (Travis, Western, 2014). From the same relatively conservative data, the U.S. incarcerates more than 4.5 times the rate of the United Kingdom, Spain, Australia, Canada, Italy, and France and over 9 times that of Germany and Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland. Throwing out racial and class disparities, and even the U.S. as an outlier, incarceration rates worldwide are cause for alarm. Many people are calling to reinforce the prison system in order to weather the storm, but there’s a less popular conversation about how to work preventatively by dismantling the systems that give it power. The abolitionist perspective can be seen as utopian or undermining, and perhaps it’s as futile as trying to reverse climate change, or maybe it’s a typical case of Gramsci’s “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.” Though there are plenty of social responses to mass incarceration, a relatively small portion of it positions the inception of penal incarceration as a root problem, which is what I’ve focused on.

To shift toward the realm of bodies and choreography, architects (Nagel, 1973; Kimmelman, 2017; Slade, 2018; Wilkinson, 2018; ) seem to be the discipline most concerned with psychosomatic and psychosocial well-being while still advocating for the construction of new prisons and jails (which they would gladly accept a contract for?). This is not to criticize anyone for trying to have an impact from their position in the prison industrial complex, more that I wanted to bring up a catch-22 in thinking about artistic and/or choreographic practices in relation to incarceration. Under current conditions, one of the prison’s primary goals is to restrict an individual’s freedom of movement, which is to say that a prison with total freedom of movement (not just pastoral landscaping and an open campus) would not be a prison anymore, assuming no one could/would be contained there. So an abolitionist/artistic/choreographic imagination of a future without prisons might look a whole lot like a regular society that fosters and amplifies existing social remedies for conflict, thus less about cycles of physical dismantling and construction, and more about emotional and cultural building.

How did we even end up with the control of bodies as imperative to the carceral landscape? Incarceration as an end in itself is a relatively recent phenomenon. For ages, cultures around the world have physically detained people in order to hold them before their punishment was served, which almost always involved state control of the body, whether flogging, amputation, pillories, banishment, execution, or any of the myriad forms of corporal punishment (Foucault, 1977). Though all awful, these punishments serve different functions in varying degrees and combinations. These functions include limiting, removing, and stigmatizing bodies, but also to display state power and serve as public deterrent and provide a sense of community accountability. In addition to corporal punishment, there is a long history of using labor to both control the body and extract value from it (Davis, 2003). Modern prisons do all of this.

My experience of prison abolition has been that of a creative and imaginative practice, which means that it must juggle hopeful visions of the future with the harsh pragmatic challenges of the present. I see the metaphysical demands of abolition in good company with the crises of a political artist and suspect that there’s productive sharing to be done. Thinking historically, cultural beliefs might hold more clues about how sociopolitical decisions were formulated, in this case the shift to penal incarceration that has defined this nation’s approach to individual punishment and “reform.” The carceral landscape and its core components like life sentences, remote fortress-like complexes, solitary confinement, and other tools are most philosophically at home in the realm of the sublime, the metaphysical territory of terror, unknowing, darkness, infinity, and divine reckoning. Taking into account some populist demand for representation and technical mastery, the sublime is still the aesthetic of choice for the premiere memorials of modern catastrophes, including the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, the Ground Zero Memorial, and others. To aestheticize something is to abstract it, consume it, reproduce it, sell it, etc., but this commodification brings an element of critical analysis with its power, should one choose to pursue it.

The fields of art and art history have long cherished the value of seeing the thing itself, and counter-visual ethnographies reinforce and reconstruct this value for things that are intended to hide and be hidden (Rancière, 2001; Mirzoeff, 2012). While America’s earlier prisons were formidable symbols in the landscape and consciousness of the people, contemporary prison construction typically happens in the margins – low-density, low-cost parts of the state that are far from metropolitan centers and autonomous cultural production. This shift toward invisibility warrants an examination of the carceral state with art historical or other theories of landscape like the American sublime. Since 1970 correctional facilities have more than tripled, and 70% of that construction happened in rural areas (Eason, 2017). In 2006, rural residents were slightly less likely to go to prison than urban ones, but by 2013 they were 150% more likely (Keller, Pearce, 2016). By studying the philosophies of visual art at the time penal incarceration was implemented, I hope to reveal unconscious systems and structures that affect our contemporary use and understanding of prisons and the broader carceral landscape as cultural systems. Generically understood as an attempt to represent the unrepresentable, the aesthetic sublime seems to have inherited the slippery quality of its unknowable subject matter. Definitive accounts of the history of the sublime are hard to come by and perhaps erroneous by default. This inability to know finds itself at home in abolitionist, choreographic, and some visual practices, but evidence of the sublime as a continuous link between these realms is scant, as one might expect for traditionally distant worlds.

Caspar David Friedrich, Monk by the Sea, 1808–10.

I might as well start out with the most frequent claim for “the beginning” of the sublime, Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful of 1757. It’s worth noting that over the past several centuries, the term “sublime” has gone through many various definitions based on fashions and whether the context is art or philosophy. Today cheesecake is sublime, but the diffusion of the term doesn’t betray a lack of original content. Burke’s interpretation is understood as the Romantic sublime, which is inherently at odds with Enlightenment thinking, though Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Judgement of 1790 offers a less empirical formulation of the sublime. Burke is generally remembered as a moderate conservative, though various political camps have claimed or demurred on his legacy. He held strong beliefs in property, order, and reform, but through liberal reasoning opposed slavery, most capital punishment, harsh penal codes and supported state tolerance of religion and sodomy (but not divorce – too much chaos). There are echoes of today’s “social progressive, fiscal conservative” type; Burke was accused of being a “sodomite sympathiser” but is perhaps most famous for his traditionalist reaction against the French Revolution, which was published more than three decades after A Philosophical Enquiry.  In Das Kapital, Marx criticizes Burke’s philosophy through a mirroring of his practice:

“The sycophant—who in the pay of the English oligarchy played the romantic laudator temporis acti against the French Revolution just as, in the pay of the North American colonies at the beginning of the American troubles, he had played the liberal against the English oligarchy—was an out-and-out vulgar bourgeois. “The laws of commerce are the laws of Nature, and therefore the laws of God.” No wonder that, true to the laws of God and Nature, he always sold himself in the best market.”

Marx would find himself siding with Thomas Jefferson, who similarly disapproved of Burke’s seemingly mercenary motives. On the other side, William Hazlitt saw Burke as a social test for complex comprehension, and Winston Churchill, who was (coincidentally?) also accused of being a liberal-to-conservative flip-flop, has defended Burke as a consistent voice of reason against tyranny, be it from extremist forces on the right or the left (Hitchens, 2004). In the end, I see Burke as progressive enough to function as a moderate beacon for the mainstream, which does make him more of an enemy to a radical left (especially in nations like the US where center is right-of-center, and a “far” left has minimal representation in the two-party system). Reality can rarely if ever be abstracted to a binary, but this sense of inbetween-ness is often the method and the message for the sublime and quite fitting for the author of one of the its defining texts.

However the history of the sublime doesn’t start with Burke, it seems to stretch back many centuries to the writings of an unknown first-century Greek author now referred to as Pseudo-Longinus who has had lasting and possibly underestimated impact on Western visual culture, though the specifics of how warrant more study (Hamlett, 2013). Translations of Pseudo-Longinus’ Peri hypsous gained significant popularity across the seventeenth century, with over thirty editions published in different languages across Europe in the two-hundred years after Pseudo-Longinus’ rediscovery in 1554. Primarily intended as a study for effective rhetoric and not concerned with the visual in particular, Peri hypsous formulated a theory of the sublime that foregrounded a powerful relationship of the author to their audience. Pseudo-Longinus’ sublime could be seen as shrewd, and was judged on the effectiveness of its ability to affect, not evidence of effort or mastery, eschewing much of the formal qualities that are later attributed to the sublime by others. As Hamlett writes, “the highest form of rhetoric was Pseudo-Longinus’s goal but, paradoxically, perfection was far from vital and frequently rejected in the pursuit. He made no specific link between the sublime and terror (although terrible ideas could be sublime) and, similarly, no contrast was made between the sublime and the beautiful.” It was Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry that separated the sublime and the beautiful and contributed to the construction of the dominant understanding of the sublime in the coming centuries.

Curiously, Peri Hypsous can be translated literally to On Height, but the Latin translation became De Sublimitate, which is how On The sublime arrived. According to Hamlett, sublimitate derives from ‘sub limen,’ meaning literally ‘under’ or ‘up to’ the ‘lintel.’ Hamlett defines lintel as the height threshold of a building, but architecturally I understand it as a beam placed atop an opening like a window or doorway responsible for bearing the weight of the wall above it. However, the Latin word limen more directly translates to ‘threshold’ more generally, which is perhaps more realistic and less metaphoric. If Pseudo-Longinus’ ‘height’ is applied to the Latin ‘under-threshold,’ I can see how one can construct the interpretation for the sublime as the human/Nature side of the split with the divine/God realm. But what really struck me about Peri Hypsous is the emphasis on earthly phenomena providing access to the celestial realm. It’s not hard to imagine the train of thought a socially-conscious intellectual of the time may have had with the sublime, a mysterious kind of image/feeling that literally compels the viewer into an altered morality. It wasn’t long until it was considered a tool for social design. Hamlett claims that between his Two Discourses (1719) and An Essay on the Theory of Painting (1725), the painter and theorist Jonathan Richardson expounds upon Van Dyck’s Countess Dowager of Exeter as a sublime portrait capable of “inspir[ing] the spectator to behave better” and “mak[ing] the spectator into a more moral being.” The Countess Dowager seems to have been lost to time, but Hamlett believes that Portrait of Mary Hill, Lady Killigrew is a comparable work.

Joey Allen, Untitled, 2002. Photographed 2019 in the Colorado Prison Museum.

The thing about art and visual representation is that tastes change, and I’ve omitted some of the stylistic changes within the sublime in the interest of providing continuity to an already complicated progression of thought. In a generalization, 17th century western Europe upheld a Baroque sublime with roots in Catholicism and Italy. It was characteristically full and decorative, as illustrated by Zuccaro’s engraving and scheme for a fresco in Rome that has since been destroyed. At the beginning of the 18th century the Italian Catholic Baroque sublime gave way to a neoclassical sublime and Protestant Britishness exemplified by the clarity of Van Dyck’s Portrait of Mary Hill. This moral sublime was superseded by the natural sublime in the decades after Burke’s Philosophical Inquiry. This transition was influenced by the global expansion of colonialism and human trafficking that enabled increased economic mobility for some, and provided Europeans with the means to travel through impressive natural scenery (Hamlett, 2013). This was the new sublime: the dramatic, terrifying landscape one that we most often associate with the term, and undeniably influenced by its previous versions. Caspar David Friedrich is a curious example, with the integration of religious symbols and the landscape, sliding into a more secular spiritual realm with the frontier ethos of America and the Hudson River School painters.

Federico Zuccaro, The Annunciation with Prophets and music-making angels, 1572.

Albert Bierstadt, Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, 1868.

Sir Anthony Van Dyck, Portrait of Mary Hill, Lady Killigrew, 1638.

Caspar David Friedrich, Tetschener Altar, 1808.

In short, the history of the American cultural construction of landscape is steeped in colonial, religious practices originating in Western Europe, as is most everything else produced in whole or part by British imperialism (Cronon, 1995). The adjacent realm of American criminology similarly inherited British convict-based colonial practices, but after the Revolution, Anglophobic sentiments and the work of philanthropic elites led to a new criminal code that favored incarceration – specifically hard labor and solitary confinement – over traditional punishments (Sullivan, 1998; Ginsburg, 2017). In 1787, Benjamin Rush, social architect of the new Walnut Street Prison, describes his perfect setting for incarceration:

“…erected in a remote part of the state…rendered difficult and gloomy by mountains and morasses…encreased [sic] by an echo from a neighboring mountain, that shall extend and continue a sound that shall deeply pierce the soul.”

Rush’s ideal scene points toward how sublime experience and state penitence become intertwined; the former intended for consumption by a social elite, the latter reserved for society’s undesirables, but both constructed as individual reckonings with a higher power through formidable physical surroundings, isolation, and vulnerability. While it was hardly the sublime site of Rush’s fantasy, Philadelphia constructed the first U.S. solitary penitentiary house as an addition to the Walnut Street Jail in 1790, forever influencing the national approach to incarceration. There are multiple examples of the elite being more concerned with the discursive potential of the sublime than the actual physical manifestation of it (see the Katzenclavier below), which alludes to the rhetorical power of the sublime: the audience/subject need only to experience the image within the author’s mind’s eye, not a tangible recreation – which is rarely possible, let alone practical.

There seems to be more literature investigating the philosophical reasoning behind the approach to mental illness than “criminality,” but they share the same social conditions at the time of being “undesirable” and requiring “treatment.” Back in England, King George was going mad in 1789 and parliament was concerned about the practices of his doctor, Francis Willis. A major point of contention was that the King was allowed to use a straight razor even during his most unstable moments, taken up by none other than Edmund Burke, now a state official (Tromans, 2010). As written in Frederick Reynold’s autobiography, Burke was very severe on this point, and authoritatively and loudly demanded to know,

“If the royal patient had become outrageous at the moment, what power the Doctor possessed of instantaneously terrifying him into obedience?”

“Place the candles between us, Mr. Burke,” replied the Doctor, in an equally authoritative tone – “and I’ll give you an answer. There Sir! by the EYE! I should have looked at him thus, Sir – thus!”

Burke instantaneously averted his head, and, making no reply, evidently acknowledged this basiliskan authority.

In this theatrical claim for the power of looking, it’s worth remembering that Burke was also politically interested in reducing monarchic power. It’s hard to say how much of a charade this was, but it seems that dramatic performance was the treatment of the time. According to Tromans, the

psychological understanding of madness, underwritten by John Locke’s labelling of lunacy as reasoning from wrong premises, opened the way, in the eighteenth century, to a phase of mental doctoring during which the physician felt bound directly to manipulate the patient’s feelings using all the ingenuity they could muster. Lunatics continued to be bled, vomited and purged according to the ancient tradition of the anti-inflammatory regime which would dilute the damaging excesses of their vital fluids. But now their minds, too, would be worked upon with comparable interventions, interventions informed by the categories of eighteenth-century psychology, among them the sublime.

The interventions involved all manner of physical shock and restraint, and medical practitioners seemed to have no limit to the levels of cruelty and absurdity of their prescriptions. There were trap doors, dunk tanks, eels, putrid smell assault, Willis’s “eye,” public humiliation, etc, that were specifically designed to be more radical than the experiences of the patients. The mentally ill were seen as having crossed the threshold of the sublime into the incomprehensible beyond, hence their symptoms, and therefore required even more profound incomprehensibility in order to push them back into the boundaries of rational being. Rush, of the Walnut Street penitentiary addition, devised one of his own such devices.

Benjamin Rush, Tranquillizing Chair, c. 1811.

In the context of the standard therapy of the 1700s it seems improbable that an institution as relatively banal as the penitentiary would take hold, but Quaker ideology rapidly dominated in the later portion of the century. Quakers had a new morality that merged the psychiatric treatment of the day with a religious aversion to physical punishment or restraint. The Quakers operated on the rhetoric of brotherly love but as it was merged with the government’s desires to remove the unstable from society it became a benevolent facade for state control.

Poyet, Katzenklavier (Cat-Keyboard), circa 1800.

Charlie Schmidt, video still from Keyboard Cat, 1984.

What does this mean for contemporary abolitionist work, knowing that the sublime frustratingly poses more questions than answers? I believe the threads connected centuries ago have woven their way into today’s carceral consciousness and influenced the current state of mass incarceration. This absurd juxtaposition of feline keyboards offers an illustration of the sublime’s evolution, in which a focus on the natural is supplanted by the “technological sublime” (Shinkle, 2013), and punishment evolves into observation. Television shows like Black Mirror are some of the recent popular media addressing the technological sublime, keying in to the cultural ramifications and challenges that come with social media, infinite (dis)information, and the advanced capacity for 24/7 (self)-observation. The most obvious links between the technological sublime and the carceral state are increasing algorithmic influence on policing and sentencing, e-carceration policies, and the surge of personal technology like tablets (and their corporations) in correctional facilities. These investigations are receiving due diligence, but additional insight could be gained with a deeper history of the sociopolitical forces behind these recent developments.


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[1] Explicitly and implicitly, consciously and subconsciously, intentionally and unintentionally

[2] In the literal sense that iterate is to repeat and reiterate is to re-repeat.

[3] Thinking of Lygia Clark’s relational objects and Somatic Knowledge: The Body as Content and Methodology in Dance Education, 2002, by Jill Green.

[4] Famously present in A Cyborg Manifesto, 1985, by Donna J. Haraway and Disidentifications Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics, 1999, by José Esteban Muñoz.

[5] Most evident in Subfun, Drain, Dead Air, Visible Hand, and Decoy Decoy.

[6] The keystone of this being The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality, 2011, by Nicholas Mirzoeff.

[7] From Vines to La Monte Young to corporate offices to Dana Michel to waiting in line at the DMV.

[8] Efficiently explored in 24/7: Late Capitalism and the Ends of Sleep,  2014, by Jonathan Crary.

[9] In Imagining the Penitentiary: Fiction and the Architecture of Mind in Eighteenth-Century England, 1987, John Bender connects the advent of novelistic fiction and its linear progression to real social policy.

[10] Specific strategies are present in all projects, but most specifically Subfun, After Anselmo, Independence Day, Drain, Dead Air, Visible Hand, Remember Me On This Computer, and Decoy Decoy.

[11] Shout out to COVID-19

[12] Unevenly, and not only the incarcerated, though they experience it much more extremely.

[13] Just type “technology and loneliness” into your favorite search engine.

[14] Specifically to reveal patterns of reform and continued oppression which can be presented as abolition and socially reinforced through (sub)conscious attitudes formed by cultural production.

[15] It’s called a “revival,” but it barely left in places like the US, and I believe it could be seen more accurately as an acceleration than a return.

[16]  In The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality, 2011, Nicholas Mirzoeff explains this mechanism.

[17]  Or when Trump has no idea/disregards how tariffs function in a market, creating a new category of fictitious economic law-theory.

[18] Like a lot of things, I grew up believing our system of punishment was an eternal truth, only to find out that it’s essentially a 200-year-old experiment.

[19] Wealthy white men.

[20] Generally applied as workhouses or detention followed by corporal punishment, which was deemed brutish. These institutions were largely unregulated private extortionate and violent affairs, made miserable on purpose in order to deter crime (not effective policy).

[21] Foucault explains the lengthy evolution in Discipline and Punish, 1975, and Angela Davis provides needed insight with Are Prisons Obsolete? of 2003.

[22] Separation of church and state being motivated by a reaction to the political power of the Church of England.

[23] Individuals found guilty of crimes serve time instead of receiving corporal punishment (previously the norm, detailed by Foucault).

[24] Punishment becomes a closed-door affair instead of a community function, e.g. the Wheelbarrow Law in Philly (Foucault).

[25] The state operates invisibly, while the public is exposed (Foucault, Mirzoeff).

[26] Through an abstraction of duration into market value, i.e. that a length of time would correspond to the severity of the crime, no longer the social contract along the lines of “an eye for an eye,” etc.

[27] Cited as the main figure behind the transformation of the Walnut Street Jail and then the Eastern State Penitentiary.

[28] Old-tyme Jeff Bezoses and Elon Musks.

[29] “Eastern State Penitentiary: A Prison With a Past, 2008, Chai Woodham.

[30] Population growth led to overcrowding and a breakdown of the solitary system, which contributed to solitude becoming an intentional punishment instead of a concept for rehabilitation.

[31] Imagining the Penitentiary: Fiction and the Architecture of Mind in Eighteenth-Century England, 1987, by John Bender.

[32] By considering both as concepts of transformative solitary reckonings with all-encompassing secular-natural higher powers

[33] Barbara Claire Freeman, The Feminine Sublime, 1995; Christine Battersby, The Sublime, Terror, and Human Difference, 2007; and Carolyn Finney, Black Faces, White Spaces: Reimagining the Relationship of African Americans to the Great Outdoors, 2014.

[34] Sounds familiar for the technological [sublime] world, e.g. prejudiced algorithms.

[35] And novelistic representations in painting, mostly referencing William Hogarth.

[36] I hope to bring the discussion full-circle, or full-triangle – the sublime-novel and novel-penitentiary legs exist but not sublime-penitentiary.

[37] Though all of the UK’s imperial holdings are higher.