Prison life in the photos of inmates and officers

An exhibition at the PAC in Milan stages the complex dynamics that intertwine inside four detention institutions.

Once again for this eighth edition, the title of RI-SCATTI initiative (a play on words between the Italian nouns for photo shots and redemption) finds full reason to exist: after the homeless, immigrants, sex slaves, teenagers suffering from cancer or bullied or earthquake survivors, the focus of this year’s project (Dante–esque subtitle: Per me si va tra la perduta gente) is in fact the inmates and agents of four Milan area prisons.

An operation never attempted before, involving sixty guests and forty operators in an eleven-month course held by volunteers from the non-profit organisation of the same name and by Diego Sileo, curator of the PAC, Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea, where, as always, the free exhibition that brings the project to fruition is being held. Open until 6 November, the exhibition is a claustrophobic and non-hierarchical but also engaging and equalising tour de force in which 800 of the 1,500 photos produced cage and perturb the viewer.

Leticia, 2022. Casa circondariale “Francesco Di Cataldo”, San Vittore
Leticia, 2022. “Francesco Di Cataldo” prison, San Vittore

The Istituto Penale per Minorenni di Milano “Cesare Beccaria”, the II Casa di Reclusione di Milano-Bollate, the Casa Circondariale “Francesco di Cataldo” in San Vittore and the I Casa di Reclusione Milano-Opera thus open up to the gaze of the public, in an intense exchange where what is at stake is not so much an aesthetic and conceptual instance that appeals to representation and interpretation, but the activation of more complex relationships that touch keys such as change, emancipation, dignity, respect, subjectivity, forgiveness and, an increasingly hot contemporary topic, the right to self-representation.

The horizontal framing used for most of the photos, so far removed from the logic of sharing on social networks,is a clue to a documentary rather than diaristic intention, while the unprecedented and surprising dialogue established between the participants is the most concrete proof of how photography, especially in a participatory and collaborative mode, can truly represent a tool for knowledge and, in the best of cases, understanding.

RI_SCATTI. Per me si va tra la perduta gente
Exhibition dates:
From 9 october until 6 November 2022
Curated by:
Diego Sileo
PAC, Padiglione d'Arte Contemporanea
Via Palestro, 14, Milan

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