10. The Writing on the Wall on The High Line

Rendering by MASS Design Group

The Writing on the Wall is a traveling installation composed of essays, poems, letters, stories, diagrams, and notes written by individuals in prison around the world. The materials are displayed in a recreated prison setting. The installation, which is a collaboration between Hank Willis Thomas and Dr. Baz Dreisinger, will be on view on the High Line at 14th Street through November 10, 2019. By emulating a prison cell, the presentation of The Writing on the Wall recreates these largely unseen spaces in a public sphere. The arrangement of the installation is based on measurements of cell blocks so that visitors can be fully immersed in the written and typed words of the incarcerated. The writings were accrued, with the authors’ permission, by Dr. Dreisinger during her years teaching in US and international prisons. As a presentation of the crisis of global criminal justice systems, these letters humanize the writers by visually conveying the narratives, thoughts, and emotions of the people behind bars.

The project was conceived by professor Dr. Baz Dreisinger and her students at John Jay College of Criminal Justice with conceptual artist Hank Willis Thomas as an effort to spread awareness and inspire efforts to reimagining prison and enact justice reform. As a traveling installation and part of the Incarceration Nations Network, the project has previously been exhibited in its pilot format in Detroit, New Orleans, Miami, Philadelphia, and other sites in New York City. In conjunction with the installation of The Writing on the Wall on the High Line, the park will present related public programming.