The 51st (Free) State is a collaborative project with artist in PNAP, where research and discussions with incarcerated artists centered around a nation of incarcerated people. The prison population in the U.S. is, indeed, the size of and uses the resources of some nation states. The struggle, pain, joy, hope, creativity, intellect and vision of the 2.2 million people incarcerated in the U.S. also reflect that of any other nation of people. The 51st (Free) State is a body of work that includes tools of state craft: emblems, anthems, choreography, graphic narratives, tools and set. These are all forms intended to connect thousands of people incarcerated across the nation through a spatial-political imaginary. Far from being disposable, this community is one with a certain kind of sovereignty, where making a speculative state of freedom is a means to achieve a corporeal state of freedom.
This project was interrupted by COVID-19. Displayed above is a portion of the work installed in windows of a local gallery. While on COVID hiatus, we developed workbook of images, letters, sets and scores that were created over the year where 4 teaching artists (myself, Anna Martine Whitehead, Damon Locks and Aaron Hughes) led sections of a year long class intended to create a performance-based work. Artists in this class from Stateville were Aaron Barnes, Antione Ford, Antwan Tyler, Allen “NY” Johnson, Carlos Ayala, Carlvosier Smith, Darrell Fair, Derrick Parks, Doris Sterling, Ike Easley, John Knight, Johnny Taylor, Juan Luna, Kevin Walker, Lamaine Jefferson, Rayon Sampson, Robert Curry, Rodney Love, and Samuel Elam.