Filming this week our documentary, funded by the DCASE Artist Response Grant
A Letter to the City: “Jail is not my home” Circles & Ciphers - a hip hop based restorative justice organization in Rogers Park, Chicago - and Chicago-based Dutch artist Kirsten Leenaars’ 2nd video project is based on letters received from people that are currently incarcerated. Weaving their deeply personal stories through performative actions and image making into our social fabric. The letters are the material for unexpected encounters to reflect on the ways the prison-industrial complex affects individuals, families, communities, a city. We received 46 letters as a response to our open call for letters through organizations that currently work within Cook County Jail. Each letter writer is compensated for their creative efforts. For the video work we are collaborating closely with 15 selected letter writers who are currently incarcerated. Their letters form the main material for the video piece. Different excerpts from the letters and individual sentences will be displayed through projections and site-specific mark making on walls, buildings, street surfaces, banners etc, throughout different neighborhoods in Chicago which our letter writers identified as their home communities. Community members respond in interviews to the displayed texts. Additionally, we are recording the letter writers over the phone - calling from Cook County - each reading their own letters. Young performers from Circles & Ciphers performed freestyle ‘serenades’ in front of Cook County Jail in response to a letter they selected. An airplane flew over Cook County Jail with a banner with the text (derived from one of the letters): jail is not my home. All these moments are documented and will be edited together as a letter to the city, amplifying and echoing the deeply personal stories and experiences of young people that are often marginalized in this society.