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On View Installations

  • Solitary Watch with Jean Casella, Jeanine Oleson and Laurie Jo Reynolds: Photo Requests from Solitary

    NEW for 2018! This ongoing project invites people in long-term solitary confinement in U.S. prisons to request a photograph of anything at all, real or imagined, and then finds volunteers to make that image. This Eastern State Penitentiary installation features astonishing new requests from Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and range of photographs made for the project. Visitors are invited to fulfill requests by uploading their own images to www.PhotoRequestsFromSolitary.org.

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  • Rachel Livedalen: Doris Jean

    NEW for 2018! The artist applied removable vinyl lettering and images on the glass panes of Eastern State’s greenhouse. The vinyl imagery is comprised of newspaper articles and photographs from the high-profile case of heiress Doris Jean Ostreicher, whose illegal abortion and subsequent death led to the imprisonment of Milton Schwartz at Eastern State in the 1950s.

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  • Provisional Island: An Electric Kite

    NEW for 2018! The artist collective Provisional Island installed a handmade radio transmitter in one cell that transmits to portable radios in the cell directly opposite. The broadcast is comprised of fragments culled from radio broadcasts and historic radio shows created in prisons and internment camps, and highlights the role of radio in subverting and transcending prison walls.

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  • Jared Scott Owens: Sepulture

    The artist draws from his personal experience to create a symbolic burial of an individual struggling with incarceration. The prisoner’s Egyptian burial sarcophagus is covered with an American Flag, a reference to “how this man came to be buried,” according to Mr. Owens. The sarcophagus also incorporates the man’s belongings, the objects an incarcerated person might wish to bring from prison into the afterlife. 

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  • Erik Ruin and Gelsey Bell: Hakim’s Tale

    The artist project a paper-cut silhouette of formerly incarcerated activist Hakim Ali onto a cell wall. In the accompanying audio, Ali recounts his experience in solitary confinement. He describes the spiritual and psychological crisis, and later resilience, that is brought about. 

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  • Piotr Szyhalski and Richard Shelton: Unconquerable Soul

    The artists combine drone footage with poems written and recorded by people living in prison. The poems address the individual complexities, and shared universalities, of the prison experience. Translations of the poems can be downloaded here.

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  • Michelle Handelman: Beware the Lily Law

    The piece uses the 1969 Stonewall Riots as a starting point to address issues facing gay and transgender inmates. The riots began after a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City. Police arrested men dressed as women and transgender patrons. Many of the patrons resisted the police raid, and the following day thousands of people marched in the streets, speaking out about unfair treatment under the law. It was the start of the modern gay rights movement.

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  • Tyler Held: Identity Control

    Reflecting on the idea that a man is “too easily reduced to an object” when institutionalized, artist Tyler Held uses a car, stripped inside a cell, as a metaphor for relinquished individuality.

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  • Jesse Krimes: Apokaluptein16389067:II

    The piece reflects the artist’s personal experience while incarcerated in federal prison, where he created a 39-panel surreal landscape on bed sheets and mailed each piece home. His installation at Eastern State will modify this massive image to cover the interior walls of an abandoned cell.

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  • Jess Perlitz: Chorus


    The artist asked incarcerated men and women from throughout the United States, “If you could sing one song, and have that song heard, what would it be?” Her recordings are played inside a cell at Eastern State. In the resulting “choir,” triggered by the visitor’s arrival, these voices are layered, escalating, colliding, and eventually grow overwhelming.

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  • Cindy Stockton Moore: Other Absences

    These 50 portraits represent individuals murdered by men and women who would eventually be sent to Eastern State Penitentiary. The stories of victims are rarely told in the institutional history or in tour and exhibit content at Eastern State today. Ms. Stockton Moore intends to create a more complete picture of the men and women imprisoned here, and the consequences of their actions. The artist could only find images of a small number of victims. The murder victims absent here reflect an invisibility of the poor and racial minorities in the documentation of violent crime.

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  • William Cromar: GTMO

    This cell is a recreation of a cell from Camp X-Ray, the now-abandoned holding cells in the United States Federal Detention Center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Department of Defense replaced the Camp X-Ray cells with newer holding cells, called Camp Delta, in 2002. As of March 2006, the United States holds more than 235 “enemy combatants” at the newer Guantanamo Bay facility. Most are accused of associating with the Taliban or Al-Qaida.

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  • Greg Cowper: Specimen

    The artist draws his inspiration from the collection of eighteen species of butterflies and moths—some quite rare—gathered by an Eastern State Penitentiary prisoner living in solitary confinement. The prisoner was visited in his cell by Dr. Henry Skinner in 1889. Dr. Skinner was a medical doctor and curator of the Entomology Section at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, and found that the inmate had used brief exercise periods in his narrow, high-walled exercise yard to collect his specimens.

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2017 American Aliance of Museums Excellence in Exhibitions Overall Winner