The hundreds of photographs which compose Degrees of Visibility chart the proliferation of jails, prisons, and detention centers across the United States. Taken from publically accessible viewpoints, the images reveal how sites of punishment—and the more than two million people incarcerated across the nation—disappear from sight. A photograph of Marin County Jail, for instance, shows the bucolic green hill which hides the facility in which 274 individuals are imprisoned. With the jail buried in the lush landscape, the crisis of incarceration is hidden from view in one of the richest counties in the nation.
Hunt’s work also serves as a reminder that what has been built can be demolished —and abolished. This attention to the transformative is emphasized both by the plywood building materials used in the installation of Degree of Visibility and the other artwork on view, Ashes Ashes. This two-channel video creatively connects events ranging from the scheduled closure of Rikers Island Jail Complex, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the 2020 Black Lives Matter uprisings. Out of these manifestations of social catastrophe a possible future emerges in which all prisons are closed.
Ashley Hunt: Degrees of Visibility/ Ashes Ashes is organized by Rachel Nelson and Gina Dent 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.
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