Photography and text (16 prints on Mulberry paper)
Wikswo’s photographs and texts surround Western State Hospital and the State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded. These government facilities in rural Virginia were designed to manipulate ideas about human worth, terminating the lives of people who were disliked or feared because they were different.
From the 1920s to the 1970s, these sites were used to segregate and persecute American Indians, African-Americans, and ‘undesirable whites’ showing signs of psychiatric and neurological difference, as well as minorities, sexual assault
survivors, teenagers from non-traditional homes, people accused of interracial relations, sexual activity outside marriage, homosexuality, or ‘contaminating the purity and soundness of the white race.’
Wikswo created the work using salvaged government cameras and typewriters manufactured during the 1930s and 40s by institutional slave labour, and employs a unique photographic technique that seeks to replicate the eye movements of someone suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Courtesy of the artist