Tehachapi, The Yard
TEHACHAPI, THE YARD, CALIFORNIA, USA, 2019
In October 2019, JR received permission to work in a maximum-security prison located in Tehachapi, California. Initially, JR went there to meet twenty-eight prisoners and present an idea for a collaborative, artistic project in the central yard. At Tehachapi, the majority of the incarcerated population has been imprisoned for nearly a decade, with many sentenced to life with no chance of parole.
JR and his team photographed the men, on by one, from above, and they were given a chance to tell their story in front of a camera. No specific questions were asked; they had the freedom to express themselves candidly. JR also photographed former prisoners and prison staff, collecting a total of forty-eight portraits and stories from the prison system.
Two weeks later, JR returned with his team to paste 338 strips of paper on the ground. In just a few hours, the prison's incarcerated population worked with guards, former inmates and members of JR's studio, equipped with push brooms and wallpaper glue, to complete the prison yard pasting.
From the prison yard, the final installation image is indiscernable. Yet, from above, it becomes clear - incarcerated people, former inmates, as well as the prison staff, and victims stand shoulder to shoulder. The installation, naturally ephemeral, disappeared in three days under the footsteps of the prison's incarcerated population.
To learn more about the project and listen to every participants' stories, download the free JR:murals app for iPhone, here, and Android, here. The project is the subject of an exhibition at Perrotin Paris from August 29 to October 10, 2020.