NOTE FROM ARTIST I would like to begin this forum with a note on my intention for this project. I began Messages To: in Edmonton during the spring of 2011. Here I became aware of the erasure of visual renderings: chalk messages written by one and daily washed away by another. Nagged by these marks created to communicate messages of love, support and anecdotes, I began to spend more time with the messages, questions came to my mind such as: Is this a new or archaic system of communication?
-How has this act of writing filled a void within this community?
-Is this a contemporary form of publishing?
-Literature and/or Art?
Artist captures chalk notes to inmates
May 27, 2012 5:11 PM MT
A local artist is preserving an endangered form of communication – chalk messages written to inmates on the sidewalk outside the Edmonton Remand centre. Lindsey Bond listed some of the chalked messages: “‘I miss you. I love you, Randy. I dropped off the mail, love Sheila and girls.” “It’s these very simple common everyday phrases,” she said. Bond first noticed the images while walking by the Remand Centre last spring. She realized that they were written so that inmates could see them from the windows. Bond started to document them, taking photos of the sidewalk before remand workers could wash the chalk away every morning. “Visually these messages get walked over everyday. They’re ignored.” Those photos make up a photo exhibit called “Messages To: The Edmonton Remand Centre Newspaper.” It is on display at Latitude 53 Gallery as well as transit centres around the city. Bond says with the centre moving to north Edmonton, inmates will be even more isolated than they are now. (CBC) The art exhibit opened Saturday with a public forum at the Remand Centre to discuss its future. The province is building a new, larger remand centre in north Edmonton to replace the existing building. Bond says that change could mean the end of the chalk messages, which will leave inmates one less way to communicate with people on the outside. “All of the court sessions and stuff will be done through video conferencing. It’s very isolated, there’s gonna be a lot of fencing. And then also just actual location and people being able to travel out there, there’s not a lot of bus transportation,” she said. “There’s going to be a lot of isolation happening.”
“Messages To: The Edmonton Remand Centre Newspaper” is on display until June 23
Messages of love and hope written in chalk
Show draws attention to Remand Centre’s ‘newspaper’
Fish Griwkowsky, Edmonton Journal
Published: Wednesday, May 23
A citywide art installation is releasing chalk messages written to prisoners into the wider world. Winnipeg’s Lindsey Bond is drawing attention to the upcoming relocation of the Edmonton Remand Centre to our extreme outskirts, and what effect that will have on a unique channel of sidewalk communication found for decades in the city’s core, visible from inside the transitory prison. Bond’s project includes medium-format photos of messages reproduced in LRT ad spaces, giant chalk prison maps on a gallery floor and even a book of her soft and carefully taken images. The Edmonton-born artist was living here in 2011 when she first noticed the daily messages of love, longing and hope. “Spring had arrived and I was doing a lot of cycling around the city,” she explains in an interview at Latitude 53. “I was biking along the path by the Remand Centre and was really taken by these messages. I kept coming back and reading them. ‘This is an amazing thing,’ I thought. ‘This needs to be documented.’ ”
The result, with an official opening Saturday in Latitude 53’s ProJex Room, is called Messages To: The Edmonton Remand Centre Newspaper – the “newspaper” being the messages cleaned off daily by Remand Centre staff. For three months, Bond, toting her Swedish Hasselblad camera, became familiar with the community drawn to the incarcerated. “That community is very flighty, very temporal,” she explains. “You get someone writing one day and maybe never see them again. I ended up running into different people almost every day. “There’s a woman – I’m not going to use names – she was pregnant, had the baby, and her boyfriend was in. She’d go in there and talk to him every day, they had to talk on the phone. They’re not married and they’re not blood, so she couldn’t actually see him. And she also has a past, so they didn’t want them interacting.” As much as we might be drawn to the romance of the colourful notes, Bond is also keenly aware of the sharp politics of the situation. People behind bars are often there for a legitimate reason. The 27-year-old, who trained at the Alberta College of Art and Design and Emily Carr University, says: “When I was starting the project and getting more acquainted with the community, there was a point I had to step back and say, ‘Whoa, this is a big can of worms. There’s a lot going on here, and a lot of it’s not good.’ You can’t just sugarcoat and romanticize the situation. There are illegal, really terrible things. But I wanted to keep going with the project to start a dialogue about that community, first and foremost.”
The artist brings up the recently passed Bill C-10, which will result in longer prison sentences, for which the provinces are financially on the hook. “These large prisons are being built, but nothing’s really being done about the core of the problem. Maybe I can’t deal with or address those larger issues – killing and raping and murdering. This was a bit of a challenge.” At almost 60,000 square metres, the $568.6-million Remand Centre is the largest public building project ever undertaken by the province, and will be the largest correctional institution in the country. Its 1,952 beds are expected to grow to 2,816 with the addition of three more living pods. The massive centre at 18415 127th St. is slated to open early next year. “With the current Remand Centre, at least there’s people coming by it. It’s part of the visual culture. It’s part of the community. You know it’s there, you know there are people inside, whether or not you want to associate with that. Now it’s being pushed to the border of the city.” In her process, the artist was touched by the stories she found. “There’s this one message, ‘Dropping off mail. Sheila and the kids’ or something – this simple message you wouldn’t think twice about, but to write that in the street and publish it in that way. “There was this one gentleman who was writing things like, ‘You drive me crazy and I miss you so much.’ The way he was writing them, he was jumping all over the sidewalk – feeling all these things and trying to get them out. This was his way. He knows she’s in there watching. That’s what most affected me – trying to communicate despite these hard circumstances.” Besides the images found in the LRT stations, Bond’s chalk map of the two Remand Centres, which will be seen at Latitude 53, will act as a metaphor for displacement. It’s intended to be walked on and destroyed. “People walk over the chalk messages and they don’t care, so I’m just going to let it be, and maybe it’ll make them think the next time they walk over someone’s chalk message.”
The project starts Saturday with a public forum at 2 p.m. at the Remand Centre courtyard, 9660 104th Ave. fgriwkowsky@fisheyefoto
Latitude 53 Contemporary Visual Culture
Macinalberta2012/05/27at 8:33 PM ETC
Compassion is difficult to understand, I know. But perhaps if you “try” to see things from the perspective of wives or children or mothers or fathers who continue to love someone who has gone astray it will help you.
at 9:45 AM ET
I get sick of the naysayers who think that because something isn’t to their taste than it’s not valid.
This is art because it captures: communication, emotional expression, a story, and has a unifying theme. It has color, it’s in a medium, it captures something that gets overlooked and hasn’t been captured before (to my knowledge). It is a statement and i imagine would be presented in an aesthetic tradition.
Is it my type of art? Nope. But is “art” more than the still life Matise reprint you buy at ikea to put in your living room? Believe it or not…yes
Thank-you for bringing attention to this issue: Even the “bad guys” are loved and missed by family and friends. Most have made very poor choices. Very few are psychopaths/sociopaths. I am sure that the individuals who left the messages and those for whom they were intended appreciate having these messages preserved.
For me that is the point of this article, not whether or not this is “art
at 10:08 AM ET
What is art?
To me art is capturing or creating a mood, feeling, opinion etc in a way which is creative and attractive to some people (not everyone loves the same art).
So, are the chalk writings art? Perhaps not. I would definitely argue that they are not. But for a woman to capture those images and present them in her own innovative way would be art. She is creating a feeling for the viewer. The display would be a reflection of the feelings of the writers (loneliness, fear, sadness) presented by the photographer with her own influence and perspective.
I think most people are failing to see beyond the fact that these are loving messages for prisoners. Not all people in prison are evil. People do make mistakes and can be rehabilitated. While there are many who do not fit that category there are some and their families miss and love them as much as any family would love and miss someone they could not see for months or years.
And the nature of the messages doesn’t change the fact that this is something in the artists enviroment that evoked a feeling for her which she wanted to record. That is what makes it art. Not the subject matter or the actual message, not the recipient or the writer.
at 6:54 PM ET
1) It’s jail, its supposed to be isolating.
2) How, by any stretch, is this art?
at 1:14 PM ET
its not art its literature!
at 6:14 AM ET
OMG?! Are you serious? So, do bad things, and get sympathy for it. Rob a bank!..”Oh I miss you!” Next few days on sidewalk. Do not pay your fines!…”I miss you…” Which could be artful
at 8:20 PM ET”
How, by any stretch, is this art?”
Barbarian! Do you know what art is?
This is so beautiful, I want to cry.