Scenes from the “ArtJail”
In a case of perfect comic timing, an anonymous press release for a “combined art museum/prison” in Philadelphia hit my inbox and my funny bone yesterday, just as the Barnes Foundation was celebrating the signing of legislation authorizing the City of Philadelphia to enter into a long-term lease with the Barnes for a site now occupied by a juvenile detention facility. The city is planning to relocate the euphemistically named Youth Study Center temporarily to Philly’s East Falls section, over intense opposition (here and here) from neighborhood residents and a mayoral candidate, Michael Nutter, who represented East Falls for almost 15 years in the City Council.
The spoof’s inventiveness far surpassed my recent tongue-in-cheek proposal to “engage Diller Scofidio + Refro to renovate and expand the Philadelphia detention center in situ, and keep the Barnes in Merion.”
Here are some excerpts from a “short introduction to Philadelphia’s new museum/prison”:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 5, 2007
Combined art museum/prison proposed for Philadelphia
No stranger to controversy, since its founding in the Philadelphia suburbs in 1922, the Barnes Foundation has been embroiled in one sort of conflict or another for most of its history, often thanks to the eccentricities of founder Albert C. Barnes. The unusual plan unveiled this week for a new Barnes building, which brings giant televisions, slot machines, and elaborately costumed employees to Philadelphia’s Museum Row, will do little to still those troubled waters. One of the proposal’s many radical elements is its inclusion of Philadelphia’s juvenile detention hall, The Youth Study Center, within the same structure as the Barnes Foundation’s multi-billion dollar art collection; earlier plans had called for a relocation of the Youth Study Center to West Philadelphia [to make way for the Philly Barnes].
The Website for the proposed institution speaks of “a more innovative approach which hews closer to the educational intent of Dr. Albert C. Barnes, combining these two institutions with similar missions into one large structure with facilities that are physically separate but visually mingled; the imprisoned children are edified, as Doctor Barnes intended, by the presence of great art, while Foundation visitors get a rare glimpse of the education of some of our culture’s most underprivileged young people.”
…In keeping with the vogue for sustainability, sections of the media-skin act as solar collectors and the building features a 2.5-acre/1-hectare green-roof urban farm which will be worked by the inmates of the detention center in “authentic chain-gang-style” costumes and overlooked by a rooftop restaurant, “The New Plantation Cafe.”
There’s an elaborate website connected with all this. I hesitate to give you a link to a site from an anonymous source, but I dared to click it and, if you wish, you can too. There’s also a related YouTube video here (which includes the above image), but for me, the press release was the most fun.
Do you suppose they got an advance look at the details of the Barnes’ architect announcement, expected any day now?
UPDATE: The spoofster identifies himself in a “Disclaimer” on ArtJail’s website, which is called “an artwork by Albo Jeavons” that has “no official association with the Barnes Foundation, the Youth Study Center, the City of Philadelphia, Google, your mom, or anybody except Albo.” We’ll call it an Albo Salvo.