Across the country, inmates are protesting a wide range of issues: from harsh parole systems and three-strike laws to the lack of educational services, medical neglect, and overcrowding. But the issue that has unified protesters is that of prison labor — a $2 billion a year industry that employs nearly 900,000 prisoners while paying them a few cents an hour in some states, and nothing at all in others. In addition to work for private companies, prisoners also cook, clean, and work on maintenance and construction in the prisons themselves — forcing officials to pay staff to carry out those tasks in response to work stoppages. “They cannot run these facilities without us,” organizers wrote ahead of the strike. “We will not only demand the end to prison slavery, we will end it ourselves by ceasing to be slaves.”
Prisoners on strike are calling for the repeal of an exception listed in the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which bans “involuntary servitude” in addition to slavery, “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”
That forced labor remains legal in prison is unknown to many Americans, and that’s something strikers hope to change with this action. But it’s also a sign of how little the general public knows about the country’s massive prison system. “A nation that imprisons 1 percent of its population has an obligation to know what’s happening to those 2.4 million people,” Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT, wrote in a blog post about the tepid response to the strike. “And right now, we don’t know.”
But while information on prisons is notoriously hard to obtain, a potentially larger problem for the striking prisoners is the seemingly limited interest in their plight, which remains confined to a few activists, family members, and formerly incarcerated people, even at a time when criminal justice issues and prison reform are high on the agenda of social justice advocates and politicians alike.


Almost every aspect of the prison system you look at is banal and counter-productive. And it usually follows the same predictable conveyer-belt of press outrage over supposed prison luxuries, followed by system-wide implementation of draconian policy, followed by catastrophic consequences.

Take drug tests. Before drug tests were introduced 1996, cannabis was far and away the most popular drug. It is a very good drug for killing boredom, which is the main problem inmates face. Many wardens secretly rather liked it, because it kept inmates docile. But here's the thing about cannabis: it stays in your system for months. Heroin doesn't. So the advent of drug tests triggered a sudden move among inmates to a much harder and more dangerous drug.

"Junkies pass drug tests with flying colours"

"You'd see people who were junkies and smoking heroin the night before pass with flying colours," Cattermole says. "It passes through the system in a few hours. Drink two litres of water and you'll pass the piss test. But weed stays." Many inmates have migrated over to synthetic cannabis – former legal highs like Spice and Black Mamba. Both are far more dangerous than cannabis. Ambulances picking up the victims of Black Mamba have become so regular they are dubbed “mambulances” in some prisons.

The punishment and reward system in prison – its official title is Incentives and Earned Privileges – was substantially toughened up by Chris Grayling during his disastrous tenure as justice secretary. It means that anyone who upsets a guard for any reason can be put on the basic regime – stripping you of your possessions and your own clothes, taking away your TV and putting you in solitary. Once upon a time you could appeal the decision with an internal process for establishing what happened. Now it's largely at the discretion of the authorities.

Those who constantly fall foul of the system are called “basic riders”. "They're people who just can't hold it together," Cattermole explains. "They smoke fags whenever they like or tell the screws [guards] to fuck off."

Obviously some sort of punishment and reward system is needed to keep inmates in order, but the one instituted in British prisons is predictably wrong-headed. "The twisted thing is your visit allowance is reduced when you're on basic," Cattermole says. "These people, if they make contact with family it reminds them that there's a world outside prison – so maybe they don't try to act the big man inside. Fuck that, right? You want to get released and see your mum. Reducing visits, reducing exposure to their support network, is an incredibly bad idea."


I’ve always wanted to find someday a person who would live for me because life is so full of useless things that I can only bear it through extreme muscular asthenia, I suffer from moral indolence in living. I tried to make Angela live in my place — but she too wants only the climax of life.


I feel as though I’ve already secretly achieved what I wanted and I still don’t know what I achieved. Could that be the somewhat dubious and elusive thing vaguely called “experience”?

Clarice Lispector. “A Breath of Life.”


Lovers - instllation © Teiji Furuhashi, Dumb Type (Japan, 1994)




White Sands.

« out of the haze a giant floating light appeared. 
its body was a poem 
written in the language of Cain. 
here was a missile that had left the earth 
and returned to touch me. 
the desert became the past. 
the dead marched across the sands to reach me. 
their shadows crossed my face 
and i began to cry. 
the sky opened. 
i could see the darkness. 
i wanted to take a picture 
but all i could do was dance. 
that’s when the bees arrived, 
riding on broken fragments of time ».

Wax or The Discovery of Television Among the Bees from David Blair on Vimeo.



When everyone you have ever loved is finally gone
When everything you have ever wanted is finally done with 
When all of your nightmares are for a time obscured
as by a shining brainless beacon 
or a blinding eclipse
Of the many terrible shapes of this world
When you are calm and joyful and finally, entirely alone 
Then, in a great new darkness,
You will finally execute your special plan


One needs to have a plan, someone said who was 
turned away into the shadows
and who I had believed was sleeping or dead 
Imagine, he said, all the flesh that is eaten 
the teeth tearing into it
the tongue tasting its savor 
and the hunger for that taste
Now take away that flesh, he said 
take away the teeth and the tongue 
the taste and the hunger
Take away everything as it is—
That was my plan, my own special plan for this world

I listened to these words and yet I did not wonder
If this creature whom I had thought sleeping or dead 
Would ever approach his vision
even in his deepest dreams 
or his most lasting death
Because I had heard of such plans, such visions 
And I knew they did not see far enough—
That what was demanded—in the way of a plan—
Needed to go beyond tongue and teeth 
and hunger and flesh
Beyond the bones and the very dust of bones 
and the wind that would come
to blow the dust away
And so I began to envision a darkness 
That was long before the dark of night 
And a strangely shining light
That owed nothing to the light of day.


That day may seem like other days—
Once more we feel the tiny-legged trepidations
Once more we are mangled by a great grinding fear
But that day will have no others after
No more worlds like this will follow 
Because I have a plan, a very special plan— 
No more worlds like this
No more days like that


There are but four ways to die
A sardonic spirit might have said to me— 
There is dying that occurs relatively suddenly 
There is dying that occurs relatively gradually 
There is dying that occurs relatively painlessly 
There is the death that is full of pain
Thus, by various means, they are combined 
the sudden and the gradual
the painless and the painful 
To yield but four ways to die 
And there are no others

Even after the voice stopped speaking 
I listened for it to speak again
After hours and days and years had passed 
I listened for some further words
Yet all I heard were the faintest echoes reminding me 
there are no others
there are no others
Was it then that I began
To conceive for this world a special plan?


There are no means for escaping this world 
It penetrates even into your sleep
and is its substance
You are caught in your own dreaming 
where there is no space
And are held forever where there is no time
You can do nothing you are not told to do 
There is no hope for escape from this dream 
that was never yours
There very words you speak are only its very words 
And you talk like a traitor
Under its incessant torture


There are many who have designs upon this world 
And dream of wild and vast reformations—
I have heard them talking in their sleep
Of elegant mutations and cunning annihilations 
I have heard them whispering in the
corners of crooked houses
And in the alleys and narrow backstreets 
of this crooked creaking universe
Which they—with their new designs—would make 
straight and sound

But each of these new and ill-conceived designs 
is deranged in its heart
For they see this world as if it were alone and original 
And not as only one of countless others
whose nightmares all proceed
Like a hideous garden grown from a single seed

I have heard these dreamers talking in their sleep 
And I stand waiting for them
As at the top of a darkened flight of stairs— 
They know nothing of me
And none of the secrets of my special plan 
While I know every crooked creaking step of theirs


It was the voice of someone who was waiting in the shadows
Who was looking at the moon and waiting for me to turn the corner 
And enter a narrow street
And stand with him in the dull glaze of moonlight
Then he said to me—he whispered—that my plan was misconceived 
That my special plan for this world was a terrible mistake 
Because, he said—
there is nothing to do
and there is nowhere to go 
there is nothing to be
and there is no one to know
Your plan is a mistake, he repeated 
This world is a mistake, I replied


The children always followed him 
When they saw him hopping by 
A funny walk, a funny man
A funny funny funny man—
He made them laugh sometimes

He made them laugh, oh yes he did 
He did, he did, he did, he did
Oh, how he made them roll

One day he took them to a place 
He knew—a special place—
And told them things about this world 
This funny funny funny world
Which made them laugh, sometimes

He made them laugh, oh yes he did 
He did, he did, he did, he did
Oh, how he made them roll

Then the funny little man
Who made them laugh—sometimes he did—
Revealed to them his special plan
His very special funny plan 
Knowing they would understand 
And maybe laugh sometimes

He made them laugh, oh yes he did 
He did, he did, he did, he did—
Their eyes grew wide beneath their lids 
Oh, how he made them roll


I first learned the facts from a lunatic
In a dark and quiet room that smelled of 
stale time and space
There are no people—nothing at all like that—
The human phenomenon is but the sum
Of densely coiled layers of illusion
 Each of which winds itself upon the supreme insanity
That there are persons of any kind
When all there can be is mindless mirrors 
Laughing and screaming as they parade about 
in an endless dream

But when I asked the lunatic what it was 
That saw itself within these mirrors
As they marched endlessly in stale time and space 
He only rocked and smiled
Then he laughed and screamed 
And in his black and empty eyes
I saw for a moment—as in a mirror—
A formless shade of divinity
In flight from its stale infinity
Of time and space and the worst of all 
of this world's dreams—
My special plan for the laughter and the screams


We went to see some little show 
That was staged in an old shed 
past the edge of town
And in its beginnings all seemed well— 
The miniature curtained staged glowed 
in the darkness
While those dolls bounced along on their strings 
before our eyes
And in its beginnings all seemed well

But then there came a subtle turning point 
Which some had noticed—and I was one— 
who quietly left the show—though I did not 
Because I could see where things were going 
As the antics of those dolls grew strange  
And the fragile strings grew taut
With the tiny pullings of tiny limbs 
The others around me became appalled
And turned away and abandoned the show 
That was staged in an old shed
past the edge of town
But I wanted to witness what could never be 
I wanted to see what could not be seen—
The moment of consummate disaster
When puppets turn to face the puppetmaster


It was twilight and I stood in the grayish haze 
of a vast empty building
When the silence was enriched by a reverberant voice—
All the things of this world—it said—are of but one essence 
for which there are no words[impossible to name in words?]
This is the greater part, which has no beginning or end—
And the one essence of this world 
for which there can be no words 
Is but all the things of this world—
This is the lesser part, which had a beginning 
and shall have an end
And for which words were conceived solely to speak of— 
The tiny broken beings of this world—it said—
The beginnings and endings of this world—it said—
For which words were conceived solely to speak of

Now remove these words and what remains? 
it asked me
As I stood in the twilight of that vast empty building 
but I did not answer
The question echoed over and over
but I remained silent until the echoes died 
And as twilight passed into evening
I felt my special plan—for which there are no words— 
Moving towards a greater darkness


There are some who have no voices 
Or none that will ever speak
Because the things they know about this world 
And the things they feel about this world—
Because the thoughts that fill a brain
that is a damaged brain
Because the pain that fills a body 
that is a damaged body
Exist in other worlds 
Countless other worlds
Each of which stands alone in an infinite empty blackness 
For which no words have been conceived
And where no voices are able to speak—
When a brain is filled only with damaged thoughts 
When a damaged body is filled only with pain 
And stands alone in a world surrounded
by infinite empty blackness
And exists in a world for which there is no special plan


When everyone you have ever loved is finally gone
When everything you have ever wanted is finally done with 
When all of your nightmares are for a time obscured
as by a shining brainless beacon 
or a blinding eclipse
Of the many terrible shapes of this world
When you are calm and joyful and finally, entirely alone 
Then, in a great new darkness,
You will finally execute your special plan

Thomas Ligotti, i have a special plan for this world

Current 93, I Have a Special Plan for This World


   I found the bee as it fumbled about the ground
   Its leg mangled, its wing torn, its sting
   I picked it up, marvelled at its insistence
       to continue on, despite the dumb brute
       thing that had occurred
   I considered, remembered the fatal struggle
       the agony on the face of wounded friends
       and the same dumb drive to continue
   I became angry at the unfair conflict suffered
       by will and organism
   I became just, I became unreasoned, I became
   I observed the bee, there, lying in my palm
   I looked and I commanded in a harsh and angry shout –
       STOP THAT!
   Then it ceased to struggle, and somehow suddenly
       became marvellously whole, and it arose
       and it flew away
   I stared, I was appalled, I was overwhelmed
       with responsibility, and I knew not where to begin.



On the freeway
I follow redglow taillights
to my city of glass


I was not here yesterday
I will not be here tomorrow


Will you please explain this
I hate you
I fear you
I return always


The pain of your people
tears my flesh
There is the hour before dawn


I will not be here yesterday
I was not here tomorrow

'Letter from Kickapoo (pop. 250)'

   hiding out
   from the heat here

   this time
   they want me
   for Living without Believing
   for Working without Slavery
   Playing without Patterns
   and Loving without Misery

   please don't give me away?


What we doing, being
That argument Kitten, on
   the freeway
I couldn’t keep up our
   habits and
We cruised along sick,
   seeking magic
And you said – Hit some
   chump over his head
But I didn’t dig that so
   you offered
To find some good tricks

I got hot, indignant like
   a square with tears
And you felt pity, saying

 - Don’t cry Daddy, it’s just
another way to burn a sucker

'Things Exactly as They Are'

   Things exactly as they are
   Are Paradise
   But it's always so quiet
   When the crickets die

 the 6 x 6 bounces me down thewashboard roads, I see the sun-eaten walls of Korea, mygirl-wife & child in mud & straw hut back in Taegu & hereI am meeting the SEAL as he sits on his roller-skate cartminus arms & legs but beneath his ass a million $’s worthof heroin – I make my buy walk through the 10,000 cam-era market-place, jeeps for sale, people for sale, I’meven for sale as I find the porch of Cutie’s suckahatchihouse and fix, sitting in the sun on the adobe veranda, thetwo Chinese agents come around to make their buy, 2 youngboys, they’re hooked bad & I charge them too much – we sitthere and fix, I fix again, the so-called Enemy & I, but just3 angry boys lost in the immense absurdity of War and state suddenfriends who have decided that our hatred of Government exceedsour furthest imaginable limits of human calculation  

American poet William Wantling (1933-74) led a life of extremes. Much of his poetry reflects this. Born in Peoria, Illinois (a town which would come to represent the kind of conformism that Wantling detested), he was a soldier in the Korean War, became a heroin addict on his return to civilian life, and spent almost six years in San Quentin prison for forgery and possession of narcotics. It was in prison that Wantling began to write. His early poetry already reflected a need to transcend immediate circumstances as well as to confront them. 

'The Awakening', dated December 1962, was first published in a limited edition of 200 by Turret Books in 1967, and as the opening piece for In the Enemy Camp: Selected Poems 1964-74, 108pp, Tangerine Press.

The four-line poem, 'Things Exactly as They Are,' takes its title from Wallace Stevens' long poem 'The Man with the Blue Guitar' (which itself was inspired by a Picasso painting).




It was in the early 1970s that – for the first time ever, to my knowledge – executives (in the advertising industry, of course) hired artists for the specific task of interfering with business as usual. In the 1970s, Henning Brandis, a young man with a background in the Fluxus network, was hired at the advertising firm GGK Düsseldorf, where his job was to think up little assaults on the safety and continuity of everyday company operations. One morning, for instance, three creative directors found their desks nailed, legs up, to the ceiling. Everything that had been on the desks had been glued to them and covered, Daniel Spoerri–style, with a layer of white paint. Or there would be surprising noises, abused furniture, adolescent pranks, pointless assignments, and other critiques of conformist work, ranging in intellectual quality from class clown to Joseph Beuys. Around the same time, the owner of März publishers, Jörg Schröder, had founded the advertising agency Bismarc Media, whose employees were told to produce nothing, and, when they couldn’t bear producing nothing, observe each other laboring under the pointless compulsion to be productive. A general manager was appointed whose task was to undermine any possible output.

[T]he phenomenon we are interested in here is this: a society in which intention and focus are on top and intensity and wastefulness are at the bottom – also existing, perhaps, on the romantic margins of leisure, of bohemianism and puberty – is being reshuffled into a society where all these relations are reversed. And if we accept that this is a social fact, we can describe this development in terms of a larger diagnosis of the transition from Fordism to post-Fordism, from a society of discipline to one of control, as the victory of artistic critique as described by Luc Boltanski and Ève Chiapello, or in terms of the much-touted ideas of the artist as entrepreneur and of the creative cities in which the creative class allegedly leads a life that is as creatively intense as it is economically productive and successful.

If we hold on to this distribution of pairs of opposites, however, something else emerges: on the one side, we find the description of work, at least in the conventional sense; on the other, that of leisure. Intensity and wastefulness, at least at first glance, obey extra-economic, if not counter-economic, principles. Someone who is wasteful neither saves nor invests; he or she does not speculate, does not even submit to the ritual calculation of the potlatch and its indirect benefits. Wastefulness is the opposite of husbandry. Intensity enjoys potential and irresponsibility: whatever happens, we do not put it in the biographical piggybank of subjectivity, heaping up experiences; nor does it even need to happen at all – it may well remain a dream. 

Within this model, the subjectivation of the self seizes, time and again, precisely on those vestiges of the structure that shaped them as objective social relations just before they were fed into the illusion of omnipotence harbored by the outsourced subject of the post-Fordist economy. But this model also reveals a subject within the subject, a highly self-possessed and possessing subject that can triumph in the victories of the person who has to survive all of this in addition to his or her defeats. This subject is strong, harboring no illusions, and is a master that constantly dissociates from its own loserish qualities, either kicking them when they’re down or flirting with them, tender and bored. The sentences that start with “I’m the kind of person who…” allow for both.

Diedrich Diederichsen / 

Images : Hobby Pop Museum 

• • •

  Au MAMCO de Genève est installé (et parfois montré) ce qui se caractérise comme un stockage : celui de l’agence Les readymades appartiennent à tout le monde©, ouverte à New York en 1987 et fermée en 1993 . « Je suis parti d’une fiction pour produire quelque chose qui s’inscrit véritablement dans la réalité », dit l’agence. Créée par Philippe Thomas, elle propose à des « personnages », terme volontairement ambigu, d’entrer dans l’histoire de l’art, via sa bibliothèque — ses catalogues, ses listes, ses registres. Bref, de proposer l’archivage de l’œuvre avant son existence, comme le réel enjeu de la transaction. Les « clients » de l’agence, alors, payent leur signature et avec elle, leur droit d’entrée, dans un petit théâtre où figurent collectionneurs, commissaires, critiques, historiens d’art ou journalistes. Ce petit théâtre n’apparaît pas comme tel, mais à l’image bureaucratique de l’entreprise gestionnaire et de ses images dont Philippe Thomas a imaginé toutes les retombées fictionnelles. 

        Cette entreprise ne s’est pas cependant limitée à produire des œuvres dont la particularité tient au fait que leur première cession s’accompagne de l’attribution de leur signature à l’acquéreur — une procédure s’inspirant de celle, très usitée dans la fiction littéraire et qui consiste, pour le romancier, à prêter des propos, des pensées ou même des œuvres entières à ses personnages. Inéluctable développement de la logique interne du travail de l’agence, elle passe, en 1991, de l’attribution d’une œuvre singulière à celle de toute une exposition. Citant un titre de Nabokov, Feux pâles au CAPC de Bordeaux, permet de ré-envisager l’intégralité de l’histoire du musée occidental, allant jusqu’à lui associer diverses œuvres d’artistes inconnus – clients de l’agence – accrochées, avec la bénédiction de l’institution signataire. Comme le signale Patricia Falguières, il s’agit non d’un retrait physique mais d’un véritable ré-investissement de l’exposition. Une exposition où ne s’opposerait plus le verbal et le visuel, le livre et le lieu. C’est ainsi, finalement, que le stock, le stockage, l’archivage, les « planning boards » les cartes postales deviennent le Cabinet d’Amateur de l’esthétique de la production. 

Elisabeth Lebovici + Caroline Bourgeois / L'argent au plateau /

Images: Philippe Thomas, Les ready-made appartiennent à tout le monde® ; Autoportrait de Groupe / copyright succession Philippe Thomas / MAMCO Genève.