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On the Other Side FACT2024. Photography by Rob Battersby

Sentences (2023)

Book; installation with bookcase, books and paper magpie (dimensions variable)

Katrina Palmer’s artistic practice includes writing and an expanded approach to sculpture, often exploring limitations and absences. For Sentences, she collaborated with people working in the justice system - including prison officers, prison education professionals, and academics in the justice field - and people who are currently imprisoned.

Through a series of writing workshops, participants were invited to consider the blank space of the page as a site to imagine alternative liberties and possibilities. Katrina offered three prompts: ‘the space of the page’, ‘the door’, and ‘tomorrow’. From here, participants free-flowingly explored ideas, problems and dreams, at first writing individually before sharing and collaborating with each other. The groups reflected on their understandings of storytelling, where writing fictions might offer relative freedoms, and how the space of incarceration itself exists in the imagination of people who have never been inside. Equally, the sessions considered the space created by people who are dedicated to working on support and education, people who maximise possibilities within the given framework.

The resulting book is available in the foyer to read and will be distributed across the prison libraries and professional bodies involved in the project, and to the participants. At FACT, Katrina presents an installation of a bookcase, much like the ones that furnish prison libraries, that holds copies of the book alongside a seemingly dead magpie, secured behind glass. Often superstitiously regarded as bad luck, the magpie, which we also associate with theft and flight, appears trapped alongside the content of the books. The concepts of confinement and freedom, both physically and emotionally, are represented through the arrangement of these objects. How might ideas of existence change when arising from a liberatory space of reflection and exchange, shared across all types of lived experiences and expertise, rather than under the conditions of punishment and power?

Further Reading from the Artist

1. My Dark Places by James Ellroy (1996)

2. The Space of Literature by Maurice Blanchot (1955)

3. Kindred by Octavia E. Butler (1979)

4. A Journey Around My Room by Xavier de Maistre (1794)

Created in collaboration with incarcerated veterans and staff at HMP Altcourse. This project is produced by FACT Liverpool as part of Resolution, an arts and research programme led by FACT, in collaboration with Liverpool John Moores University and funded by Paul Hamlyn Foundation, with additional support from the US Embassy. Courtesy of the artist.

We would like to thank all the people who have put time and trust into this project, especially all the prison staff and the imprisoned participants. Book designed by Traven T. Croves (Matthew Stuart & Andrew Walsh-Lister); typeset in Pantasia by Wei Huang (Counter-Forms) & ROM by Seb McLauchlan (Dinamo); and printed at AB Screenprint. Magpie fabricated by Zack Mclaughlin (Paper & Wood)