For several years I have been thinking of a project involving inmates of a prison. I imagined spending some time alone with them in a one-to-one situation. Then two years ago, I proposed the idea to the director of the prison in Aruba. He agreed to the project but the presence of a prison guard would be mandatory. For a while I put the project on hold.
Then last summer, during the making of my last project about a Colombian mercenary, I came in contact with the director of the Cali penitentiary, one of the most dangerous jails of South America. I briefly explained my project and general intentions to her and in principle she agreed to allow me to enter the prison for a period of three months, and spend time alone with one prisoner at the time. At the moment we’re discussing the conditions and requirements of my visit(s) and in the coming weeks the prison administration will send me a list of candidates of possible and suitable prisoners.
The idea is to select four detainees. During a period of three months I will meet with them at least two times per week, each time for one hour.
The conversations will revolve around their life. I would like to know the person they have been so far and the person they want to be in the future. The outcome will be a kind of portrait of ‘the third person’ that exists in between those two, but isn’t the person they are now.
The intention is to avoid focusing on their actual situation and the crimes that brought them to jail. Instead my aim is to build a relationship made up of trust and confidence, in order to create a sort of ‘cross-pollination’ that will allow me to penetrate to the core of their personalities and stories and enable them to see themselves through ‘the lens of art’, transformed into someone suspended between reality and possibility.
I don’t know yet what the form of the portraits will eventually be, as my usual process is to never fix the result in advance. I sense, though, that every subject will ask for a different approach and will require finding an appropriate form that corresponds to the peculiarity of the subject. So it could take the shape of an installation, a film, a book, a sculpture or a series of photos.
In any case, the work will consist of four single portraits that could stand on their own, but also have a link and a common thread with the others.
After showing the works it is my intention to donate them to the four inmates who participated in the project in the form of a package, similar to the packages containing the belongings of the prisoners that are given them once they leave the prison.
After all, the portraits will be theirs.
The package will contain their own ‘betweenness’, and it will be the first thing they will be confronted with upon release, a tangible reminder of the conception that they made of what they would become after being free again.