Politics of Vision – Ashley Hunt Brings Degrees of Visibility to UK CFA

Building on 10 years of creative research, Ashley Hunt’s Degrees of Visibility exhibition looks at the American prison system and the practice of geographically placing the prisons, and the human beings they hold, conveniently out of sight.

He has photographed landscapes encompassing prisons, jails and detention centers in all of America’s 50 states and territories, sharing a broad view of the geography and practice of mass incarceration.  There is a dichotomy between the sites that cannot be easily seen or recognized, versus their inhabitants who are constantly watched and whose identity is objectified.  Although the lives and conditions of prisoners are not immediately visible these compelling images, Hunt counters this through the narrative nature of the work — its text, storytelling and statistics, and dialogue with local organizations

This body of work has grown out of a larger project that began 19 years ago by the artist and activist Ashley Hunt.  The overall scope of The Corrections Project expands the media to video, mapping and writing, and he has a clear commitment to the work and to people effected by bigotry, oppression, inequality and unjust practices, who are the primary communities affected by mass incarceration. Hunt explains, "[Mass incarceration] functions as a prism through which you see all of society’s abuses and neglect. Talking about the prison is never just talking about prison. Taking about prison is taking about racism, poverty, slavery, genocide, literacy, failures of education, healthcare, housing. Everything."

Through his use of history and statistics, Hunt shares his research with image titles offering facts about the number of inmates in the specific location, and additional information that may include the gender(s) of the prisoners, facts about actions that have taken place inside, such as rebellions, capital punishment or forced labor. The show addresses and raises the awareness of these things’ erasure, keeping the system unaccountable while inviting the discussion into the elite walls of a gallery.

Artists play a profound role in changing the world around them and in shaping the future. I bring this show to UK not only because is Ashley a great artist, but because his commitment to using his art to make a difference in the world is powerful, and this work is important. Hunt shares his platform with the people in the cities where the work is exhibited, and sometimes the connections are surprising.  At the first showing of Degrees of Visibility in Atlanta in 2016, he was touring a woman through the show, when she recognized the image of our local Lexington Fayette County Detention Center, whose “remodeling” had been a starting point for the entire project (camouflaged to look like a horse farm). “She pointed to it,” says Hunt, ”took a breath, and said, ‘My sister’s going to pick up her husband from there next week.’” Said the artist about this moment: “You always wonder what your work is going to mean to folks once you start to show it, and she reminded me how deeply and intimately this system runs through our lives, shapes our geography and reveals our access to power, but also mediates the relationships we have to those around us.” 

Hunt has partnered with local organizations to share the platform of this exhibition during the first week of October, foregrounding the importance of their work around issues of incarceration, race and equality.  “The exhibit and our conversations are opportunities to share the importance of the work they’re doing and how they see the issues of mass incarceration, equality and justice manifesting locally. Rather than just be content with its value as an artwork, art has the power to help move people’s work forward, to benefit people beyond art collectors and its professionals, and in this case communities who are most heavily effected by incarceration, the prison system, invisibility, who are not so coincidentally given the least consideration as audience in galleries and museums.” 

You can join in the experience, awareness, and discussion.

Degrees of Visibility Opening Reception: Thursday October 4th 4:30 – 7:00PM
Ashley Hunt Artist Talk and Panel Discussion: Friday October 5th Noon – 2PM