artist PEJAC transforms spain’s oldest prison with help from inmates
 

artist PEJAC transforms spain’s oldest prison with help from inmates

spanish artist pejac employs the help of inmates to create a series of installations inside spain’s oldest prison. called ‘gold mine’, the site-specific works reflect on the value of the human condition and the need to leave a mark.

images courtesy of pejac

 

 

over the course of ten days, spain’s ‘penal de el dueso’ became pejac‘s studio, continuing his penchant for working in unusual places.

 

here the works become inaccessible to their usual environment of collectors, gallerists and the general public‘, the pejac explains. ‘even with many resources or contacts that one can have here, he/she is in a disadvantage compared to the inmates.’

artist PEJAC transforms the walls of spain’s oldest prison with the help of its inmates designboom gold mine

 

 

known for his subtle interactions with the urban environment, pejac’s work seeks to reinvent notions of private and public space. the barcelona-based artist, whose real name is silvestre santiago, encourages the viewer to acknowledge sensitive social and environmental issues in a smart and poetic manner.

 

a prison itself is a place wrapped in harsh reality and at the same time, I feel that it has a great surrealist charge. it is as if you only need to scratch a little on its walls to discover the poetry hidden inside.’

artist PEJAC transforms the walls of spain’s oldest prison with the help of its inmates designboom gold mine

 

 

penal de el dueso is built on the remains of a former napolean fort located in the artist’s hometown of santander. it was constructed in 1907, incorporating new elements aimed to achieve prisoners re-socialisation through labour in open spaces.

 

in a similar vein, pejac has added to the prison’s outdoor spaces, engaging its inmates in the process. together, they have painted a mural in one of the yards, entitled ‘the shape of days’. made up of thousands of tally marks, which together form the silhouette of an oak tree, the piece is symbolic of the freedom that awaits beyond the prison’s walls.

 

‘this mural speaks about perseverance as one of the most valuable virtues between el dueso’s walls‘, pejac explains.

artist PEJAC transforms the walls of spain’s oldest prison with the help of its inmates designboom gold mine

 

 

in the basketball court pejac has created a tromp l’oeil, creating the appearance of the backboard peeling away from a metallic surface. using real 22-carat gold his aim is to dissect notions of luxury and value.

 

‘the illusory visual effect indicates that sometimes gold does not shine.’

 

‘I also like the idea of transforming an everyday object into a luxury object so that the inmates can play with it daily,’ he adds.

artist PEJAC transforms the walls of spain’s oldest prison with the help of its inmates designboom gold mine

 

 

in one of the prison’s corridors he imagines walls made up of sliding doors. painting another tromp l’oeil, pejac depicts a bird in flight, travelling freely from one side to the other. made up of concrete and decorated with barbed wire, he hopes the artwork will detract from the hardness and pressure of the space.

 

working with these people has been one of the best experiences of my career and without a doubt the most motivating part of this project‘, he tells designboom. ‘during two weeks that the project lasted, while we painted side by side, we chatted and shared very good moments together.’

artist PEJAC transforms the walls of spain’s oldest prison with the help of its inmates designboom gold mine

 

 

pejac stresses the importance in how each piece will develop over time. the three site-specific installations will remain on display at the prison until further notice.

 

here the important thing is how the inmates perceive the artworks and live alongside them, not so much the works themselves. and of course, that they follow their natural course, that they play basketball with ‘hidden value’ until the hoop falls and gold break into pieces. that they enjoy them. in short, the goal is to take a little load off the inmates shoulders in everyday life.’

artist PEJAC transforms the walls of spain’s oldest prison with the help of its inmates designboom gold mine

 

 

pejac currently lives and works in barcelona, but his works can be found in cities around the world. as well as murals in paris, istanbul and tokyo, the artist’s site-specific installations include an old-fashioned well, which he placed in the middle of the open atlantic, and gravity-defying sneakers on the streets of london.

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