DOES THE PUNISHMENT FIT THE CRIME?

Installation

Turin, Italy

2008

While architecture’s role in reforming the prison system may be arguable, incarceration is undoubtedly a spatial issue. The prison isolates the criminal at a safe distance from the public by restricting him or her into an irreducible space deemed habitable. Punishment is calculated along a spatio-temporal matrix; the more severe the crime, the more punitive the space and the longer the prisoner is condemned to it.

This formula comes into question when considering acts of ethical ambiguity. Visitors to the installation are asked to rethink the fit between crime and punishment. A touch screen is the interface for this intricate and politically charged interactive video game. Upon entering the gallery, the viewer is confronted with an LCD screen displaying a matrix of crimes selected for their severity and moral ambiguity: drug use, sexual deviance, insider trading, conspiracy, disturbing the peace, unlawful conduct, illegal immigration, etc.

After a crime is selected, the screen renders an initial cell design as an interactive panorama. By pointing the screen in any direction, left-right-up-down, the view is displayed as a virtual transparency aligned with the space beyond. As the viewer adjusts the confinement according to parameters of hard/soft, opacity/transparency and dumb/smart, the screen displays the resulting cell design in QuickTime VR.

This new calculus for spatial confinement recognizes the diversity of the prison population. Thus using a one-size-fits-all shell, the cell can be customized to the individual with a series of options that accommodate isolation, privacy, social interface and access to light, fresh air, climate control, view, information, and communications.

In collaboration with Hayley Eber.

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