23 Oct
Art as experimental research tool with the artists being metaphors


In August 2008 Chiara Fumai spent 31 days of imprisonment in Cell A1C1 of the Oostereiland Penitentiary of Hoorn. She didn’t get busted for something. It was part of this art project called 13 Isolations that took place from August 1-29. The basic idea was to lock up 13 really different artists (cultures, artistic disciplines, etc.), confine them in isolation for one month and only give them art materials, food and water. And oh yea, stream the reality of life in a prison cell live 8 hours a day on the Internet. It was done to bring awareness to wrongful imprisonment, discrimination, tribalism, forced labor, human trafficking and poverty. All things that are eating this world up, no doubt about it. I love the idea of art being used as an experimental research tool and the artists being metaphors for the bigger picture. And there’s something rather intriguing about the idea of locking up a bunch of creative people for a month and watching them struggle to compromise their aloneness by creating unique works of art.

They tried to make it something special. Even the Mayors office and the Hoorn city government sponsor the Landmark prison site and subsequent exhibition space at the prison. Unfortunately I watched a few of the episodes online, but they’re really not that great. great idea, no so good of an execution.

Anywho, back to Chiara Fumai. During her journey in Oostereiland the artist kept a secret correspondence with a mysterious man and produced some of her most important pieces, including a complex escape plan that would let her pass through the surveillance system in less than one hour. For the occasion Fumai spent most of her time sewing a 12 meter long escape rope, using fabric from the prison’s curtains and clothes from her wardrobe, but at one point, the development of the project left her with nothing to wear besides a brown Indian blanket provided by her friend Fred Martin.

Before escaping the prison on August the 30th the artist wrote a “Love Poem” about female sexuality during imprisonment, and left it in the toilet of Cell A1C1, where it still remains, as part of the Local Artistic Patrimony and viewable under appointment. The people of Hoorn will always remember her as “The girl with the blanket”.

And with that, I give you Atomic Activity Book N.3, “The girl with the blanket”. The hardcover book runs for 60 pages, is color, has silver foil edges and comes with a 30? soundchip with the artist’s voice and a hand-knotted cloth bookmark. A novelty? Perhaps. Collectible? I think so—and not just because there will only be 1 edition and in limited numbers.


“Terrified of being alone, yet afraid of intimacy, we experience widespread feelings of emptiness, of disconnection, of the unreality of self. And here the computer, a companion without emotional demands, offers a compromise. You can be a loner, but never alone. You can interact, but need never feel vulnerable to another person.”

– Sherry Turkle

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