For The Writing on the Wall, the letters and other writings from people in prisons all over the world raise questions about the global implications of the history of labor, social relations, and land usage contained within the small county jail. The Writing on the Wall, a collaboration between artist Hank Willis Thomas and scholar and activist Dr. Baz Dreisinger, is an installation covering the walls, ceilings, and floors of the Davenport Jail with writing by individuals in prisons around the world. The writings were gathered by Dr. Dreisinger during her years teaching in United States and international prisons. As a presentation of the crisis of global criminal legal systems, these letters visually convey the narratives, thoughts, and emotions of the people behind bars.
The Writing on the Wall is organized by Rachel Nelson and Gina Dent in partnership with the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History as part of Visualizing Abolition, a public scholarship initiative at UC Santa Cruz designed to shift the social attachment to prisons through art and education. Funding for Visualizing Abolition is provided by the Mellon Foundation.
The project is an initiative of the Incarceration Nations Network and has previously been exhibited in Detroit, New Orleans, Miami, Philadelphia, and New York City, including as part of the High Line Network Joint Art Initiative.
Hank Willis Thomas is a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to perspective, identity, commodity, media, and popular culture.
Dr. Baz Dreisinger
Dr. Baz Dreisinger is the founder of the Prison-to-College Pipeline program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and the founder and executive director of the Incarceration Nations Network. Founded in 2018, the Incarceration Nations Network is a global network that fosters and elevates innovative justice work worldwide. Dr. Dreisinger is also the author of the acclaimed book Incarceration Nations: A Journey to Justice in Prisons Around the World and a 2018 Global Fulbright Scholar.