All Day

all-day_630-355.bedIn 2000 Justin Gibson, age 15, was convicted of the murder of his grandmother and was sentenced to life without parole at a Michigan State Correctional Facility.

All Day is a 3-D animation/experimental documentary video project, made in collaboration with Justin Gibson, and telling his fictional interpretation of the story of his crime and ensuing incarceration, as well as his personal rendering of stories extracted from interviews with fellow inmates regarding their own prison experience. Our aim is to read the experience of captivity within (and against) the overlapping contexts of apathy, apprehension, alienation, and a denial of hope.

I first met Justin during a poetry reading at a local prison. His mastery of language and the power and courage of his imagery left a lasting impression on me. A year later I decided to follow the footsteps of students in my Prison Outreach Workshop who had spent a semester working with teams of inmates on collaboratively producing five-minute video pieces. Justin seemed an obvious choice for a partner for my own video project.

Since January 2009 we met every other week for two-hour sessions during which we watch various artists’ film and video works and review specific literary resources pertaining to the project’s style or content. Primarily, though, we critiqued a script Justin was writing, and together designed All Day, a 3-D animation/experimental documentary video (30-40 minutes in length), executed in segments by myself, and analyzed and revised by us both during our meetings.

all-day_630-355.panUsing 3-D animation modeling, and following minute and detailed descriptions of the cell(s) Justin has been locked in over the years, we constructed a site which emulates the physical space within which the stories unfold. Justin’s cells, however, are door-less boxes inhabited by videotaped figures embodying multiple versions of a single person (e.g. young and old; complacent, longing and angry).

The setting in which the cells are placed or disposed of resembles a landfill, scattered also with various broken remnants from the characters’ past lives, signs of their crime scenes as well as moments from their childhood. On the outskirts of the landfill, beyond its walls, roam recalled figures from the prisoners’ lives, forever excluded from the site and unavailable to the inmates trapped inside.

We thus aim, in All Day, to create a new type of documentary in which navigation through a video plane calls into question the reality of the locale visited. Rather than convey a coherent physical space or a linear narrative, the work makes use of space as an interface — and metaphor — for the representation of psychological, political, and other types of landscapes. Within this constructed world the formal rendering of the scene and its inhabitants becomes a descriptive attribute integral to their perceived character as are one’s age or skin color. The explicit presence of an author thereby offers a means to react to a complex social or emotional situation. It deliberately does not function as an instrument for presenting accessible facts.