Saturday
Mar102012

dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y

d.


 

dedicated to George Jackson and Arnold Schwarzenegger

 

"It's not ready yet. It's dead, but it's not ready." —Georgia Jackson, mother of George Jackson, RE: George Jackson's body, held at the Marin County Coroner's Office in the wake of the inmate uprising of August 21, 1971, San Quentin State Prison, California.

"GROSS DESCRIPTION: The body is that of a Colored male, estimated at 30 years of age, exceedingly well developed and well nourished, estimated at 6' tall and 200 lbs. The body is nude when first seen." —Donovan O. Cooke, M.D., Coroner, "Coroner's Report: In The Matter Of The Death Of; George Lester Jackson," August  22, 1971.

"Thus it is impossible to be certain of the direction of this bullet pending consultation with ballistics experts and opportunities to see the clothing." —Donovan O. Cooke, M.D., Coroner, "Coroner's Report: In The Matter Of The Death Of; George Lester Jackson," August 22, 1971.

"...the inclusion of George Jackson... defies reason and is a significant indicator that Williams is not reformed and that he still sees violence and lawlessness as a legitimate means to address societal problems." —Arnold Schwarzenegger, "STATEMENT OF DECISION (corrected version): Request for Clemency by Stanley Williams," December 12, 2005. Williams executed, December 13, 2005.

 

dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y is a gallery, or exhibit, of four audio collages concerning the inmate uprising of August 21, 1971, San Quentin State Prison, California.  Sources for the audio include three press conferences held at San Quentin State Prison August 21, 22, and 23 (with statements by Associate Warden James Park, Warden Louis Nelson, Information Officer Raymond K. Procunier, and various unnamed reporters); an interview with George Jackson (a leader killed in the uprising); an interview with Georgia Jackson (George Jackson's mother);  Nathan Milstein, "Bach Sonata #1 in G Minor";  Avalon Sutra, "As Long As I Can Hold My Breath";  Sevil and Ayla, "Bebek";  and Imogen Heap, "Aha!" All audio directly related to the uprising is thanks to KPFA and Pacifica Radio Archives.

Audio is modified from the original in arrangement, relative volume, panning, polarity and, in a few instances of especially poor sound quality, the minimal application of EQ. Collages were created with a Mac computer, Ableton Live software and an AKAI APC20 control surface (moments of history thus summoned with buttons and faders).

Its title the same as that of the 1997 art film by Johan Grimonprez, dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y welcomes renewed consideration of the inmate uprising at San Quentin State Prison. The uprising and the discourse around it speak in America to topics of race, gender, insurgency and counter-insurgency, revolution, repression, incarceration, history/storytelling/truth, and the emergence of technologies, procedures and systems of classification characteristic of the supermax. To engage history through the recorded voices of its participants is an intimate and visceral experience. Moreover, it is to contemplate the imprint of events on such things as tone, volume, velocity, inflection affect, cadence and emphasis.

The Four Pieces

Bare Facts

"Bare Facts" studies the notion of an official story. It asks the question, How is a story made legitimate? It considers relationships of forced nudity (as exemplified in prisons with strip, or skin, searches) to the production of truth. A refrain in the piece is, "These are the bare facts" (James Park). Bare facts include: The uprising was "an escape attempt"; "a gun was smuggled in"; the uprising was "a needless butchery"; those responsible for the uprising were "savages"; and among the weapons the savages used were razor blades, which, as Associate Warden Park explains, are a "queen's weapon" ("You have homosexuals cutting each other with razor blades").

Hair

"Hair" looks at the notion that George Jackson's "excessively long" hair and particular haircut ("a high pompadour natural") allowed him, even under conditions of forced nudity, to conceal a 9 mm semi-automatic pistol on his head. The work examines also the notion that institutional security is compromised by the freedom of inmates to read inflammatory literature (with particular emphasis on publications of the Black Panther Party). Literature and long hair pose a dual threat to the controls of forced nudity. Under the protection of "state law 2600," literature promotes dangerous ideas, and hair, under the protection of "civil liberties groups," conceals associated contraband.

Prison Movement

"Prison Movement" looks at George Jackson's concept of the prison movement—later dubbed the anti-prison movement—and his perception of the United States and its institutions of incarceration as terrorist and fascist. It looks also at Jackson's self-stated identities as the "foco motor," an example to the people, and a person who "stands for... and who will always stand for... the survival of the community."

Incorrigible

"Incorrigible" presents Georgia Jackson's interpretation of the uprising (which she does not see as "an escape attempt") and her views broadly on America and the nation's prison system.

Thanks

This project was made possible by many. Special thanks to: KPFA, Pacifica Radio Archives, and Archives Director Brian De Shazor; Freedom Archives and Director Claude Marks; Susan Fraiman, University of Virginia; Jaydn DeWald; Cole Cuchna.