Temporary Services is an artist collective (made up of Brett Bloom, Salem Collo-Julin and Marc Fischer) based out of Chicago, who create activist-minded public projects which challenge conventional forms of public expression. One ridiculously interesting project they’ve undertaken is Prisoners’ Inventions, created in collaboration with an incarcerated prisoner known only as Angelo around 2003. Featuring Angelo’s original drawings of prisoner inventions, a series of recreated inventions, and a life-size replica of Angelo’s cell, the project effectively demonstrates the ingenuity and inventiveness of humans in a restricted environment. The prisoners’ inventions are remarkable in their surprising range and creativity, from papier-mâché dice to cigarette lighters to “muff bags” (homemade sex dolls), and really prompt the viewer to think about how they’d adapt in the same situation. For me, the prisoners’ inventions capture the contradictory beauty of creativity in an inherently ugly place.
Want to recreate some of your prisoner inventions (or perhaps practice for an impending prison sentence)? Click on the following pdfs for Angelo’s detailed drawings and instructions (opens in new window):
- Water Cigarette Lighter
- Toilet Paper Papier Mache Cup
- Salt and Pepper Shaker
- Battery Cigarette Lighter
// All images via the Temporary Services website. If you want to support contemporary art but, like me, have a ridiculously small budget, why not buy Temporary Services’ very reasonably priced Prisoners’ Inventions book here (from their own Half Letter Press, $12). I bought it for my Dad a few years ago for Christmas, and it is really cool. If I ever get arrested, I’d like someone to smuggle it in for me.
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