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Exploring women’s imprisonment through art

An evocative new exhibition, A History of Women’s Prisons, challenges assumptions about the social justice concerns of imprisonment.

A new exhibition, curated by Dr Susy Menis from Birkbeck’s School of Law in collaboration with artists Noriko Hisazumi and Fabiana Vigna, will explore the history of women in prison through artworks. It will run from 24 May – 2 June 2019 at Euston Road’s Crypt Gallery.

A History of Women’s Prisons: an artwork exhibition draws upon historical criminological research on the theme of the reform of the prisoner during nineteenth-century England. The artwork focuses on the emotional tension between the penal aim of reformation and the effects it may have had on the prisoner.

Set in the evocative and atmospheric Crypt Gallery, the art creates a platform for discussion concerning social justice and aims to raise questions about how we view imprisonment and the inherent problems which surround it.

Dr Menis, Lecturer in Law at Birkbeck, said: “This exhibition explores emotional tension between the penal aim of reformation and the effects it may have had on the prisoner, and its aim is to problematise imprisonment through visual representation. The exhibition does not claim to be a historical project; also, the artwork does not claim to represent emotions experienced by female prisoners during the nineteenth century.

“However, the artwork allows engagement with the question of how to do justice to experiences of incarcerations, which are reductively addressed when expressed in terms of cognitive experience. The project has been generously supported by Arts Council England and Birkbeck School of Law because of its public engagement and collaborative nature; it has also been shortlisted for a 2019 Birkbeck Public Engagement Award.”  

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