arrow grid linear view icon
The College of Arts Sciences

From Cell to Cell: The Prison in Television and Performance Conference, Oct. 29

October 20, 2016

When: Saturday, October 29, 10:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m.

Where: Film Forum (B21), Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts

Free and open to the public

Facebook event

Poster PDF

From Cell to Cell: The Prison in Television and Performance is a one-day conference gathering scholars, artists, and activists to explore the intersections between theatre and performance-based prison work, especially in relation to different forms of activism, and televisual representations of incarceration. This free and public event will begin at 10:00 am in the Film Forum of the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts on October 29, 2016, and is co-sponsored by the Department of Performing and Media Arts, the Cornell Council for the Arts, University Lectures Committee, Graduate and Professional Student Programming Board, the Association of Graduates in Theatre, the Society for the Humanities, the Departments of History, Policy Analysis and Management, English, History of Art and Visual Studies, and the American Studies Program.

Coordinated by graduate students Nick Fesette (PMA), Kriszta Pozsonyi (PMA), and Hannah Mueller (German), this conference interrogates the stories, affects, and knowledges that pass “from cell to cell”: from the overcrowded cells that incarcerate 1 in 100 adults in the United States, to the media cells of the televisual projections of prisons across the world, to the individual cells of the body politic itself. In order to reckon with and transform the criminal justice system, it’s necessary to examine, critique, and perhaps undo the network of images and media representations of imprisonment; without changing the imagination, it’s impossible to change reality. Academics and performance-makers approach this project in a variety of ways, and this conference focuses on two of them in particular: those who critique television’s role in circulating particular ideas of punitive justice and the experience of imprisonment, and those who cross the prison threshold in order to directly assist the incarcerated in using theatre and performance to incite transformation from the inside out. What are the different ways in which scholars and practitioners approach these processes? What might these socially-engaged rejoinders to mass incarceration gain by being examined in tandem? Other topics addressed include issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, and ability in incarceration; the role the arts play in rehabilitation and reentry; the history of prison in television and other media; and the role of art works generated by incarcerated people in the history of modern theatre.

Invited speakers include Bill Yousman, Assistant Professor of Communication and Media Arts at Sacred Heart University and author of Prime Time Prisons on U.S. Television: Representation of Incarceration; media studies scholar Aurora Wallace, professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at NYU; performance artist and scholar Lisa Biggs, Assistant Professor at Michigan State University; and Ashley Lucas, author of the play Doin’ Time: Through the Visiting Glass, Associate Professor of Theatre and Drama, and Director of the Prison Creative Arts Project at the University of Michigan. This event also features a roundtable discussion of Cornell scholars on criminal justice, incarceration, and representations of imprisonment, as well as a short performance of an original play by the members of Civic Ensemble’s ReEntry Theatre Program, an initiative started in 2015 to provide an opportunity for formerly incarcerated members of the Tompkins County community to participate in arts programming. From Cell to Cell culminates in a keynote lecture by Michelle Brown, Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Tennessee and the author of The Culture of Punishment, among other works researching the culture, affect, and emotion in the lived life of carceral regimes.

Schedule of Events
10:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m. Bill Yousman (Sacred Heart University)  “Representing Incarceration and Resistance in the Digital Media Environment”
  Aurora Wallace (NYU) “Media Studies in Prison”
  Hannah Mueller (Cornell) “Soap Opera vs. Dropping the Soap: Representations of Male and Female Prisoners on U.S. Television”
12:15 p.m.–1:00 p.m. Civic Ensemble (Ithaca) “ReEntry Theatre Program: Recovery and Community”
2:00 p.m.–3:30 p.m. Lisa Biggs (Michigan State University) “Reclaiming Carceral Space for Women’s Activism”
  Ashley Lucas (University of Michigan) “Families and Incarceration: Doin’ Time: Through the Visiting Glass”
3:45 p.m.–5:00 p.m.

Jaime Coleman (Empire State College), Bruce Levitt (Cornell—PMA), Kianna Lukosavich (TC3), Juan Carlos Melendez-Torres (Cornell—Musicology), and Byron Suber (Cornell—PMA)

Chair: Nick Fesette (Cornell—PMA)

Roundtable: “Images of Incarceration: Research and Activism Across Disciplines”
5:30 p.m.–7:00 p.m. Michelle Brown (University of Tennessee - Knoxville) Keynote Lecture:  “Dismantling the US Carceral Regime as Countervisual Project”
From Cell to Cell