Roof Protest (Strangeways Prisoners, 1990)
Series of eleven re-photographs, dimensions variable, from The Guardian newspaper, SocietyGuardian, Wednesday 31.03.10, original photograph by Don McPhee.
In 1990 prisoners at Strangeways Prison in Manchester began a riot as a protest to the prison conditions. The riot began when prisoners took control of the prison chapel, and it quickly spread throughout most of the prison. The riot and rooftop protest ended 25 days later when the final five prisoners were removed from the rooftop, making it the longest prison riot in British penal history.
“AF: I find this a compelling image because of the conflicting things that are happening in it – the prisoners have broken free from their cells, a riot has taken place and they have reclaimed their space but they are totally marooned on the roof and can go nowhere else, except down on the ground and so surrendering themselves.
In that way the image, and perhaps the whole situation of the Strangeways prison riot, acts as a gesture of freedom, rather than a real try at escape. And I’m interested in this idea being reflected in the image, specifically shown by the individual hand gestures that the men on the roof are making […] Those hand gestures that the prisoners make are totally unconscious, they are not acting, but it is the position of being in this ‘almost freedom’ that creates their ability to perform as free men.” **
** Quote from a conversation between Amy Feneck and Caterina Riva in relation to the original photograph of the rioters on the roof. The full conversation will be printed as part of an artists project in January's edition of art magazine Cura http://www.curamagazine.com/en/