Hostile Territory: Between Inside and Out

Hostile Territory Installation
Installation in 2023 Burren Annual, Burren College of Art

Hostile Territory looks at windows.

Its photographs track the thin, slit-shaped windows of modern prisons to their architectural antecedents, considering the modern prison’s relationship to pre-modern structures of defense, battle and worship, along with the thresholds they draw between people — shaping their regulation, subjectivity, collectivity and vision.

Complicating the narratives that place the “birth of the prison” within Modernity, as one of the enlightenment institutions of governance and civic life, Hostile Territory looks instead to their emergence from spaces of warfare, its architecture and its ideological production of “enemies” and “outsiders.”

The series includes photography from multiple continents, including North and South America, Pacific Islands and Western Europe, and its format includes both an exhibition of photographs and a free newspaper of the same title.

Picturing fortresses used to perpetrate and resist colonial aggression; castles that were inverted into jails; city walls that excluded and jailed; bunkers, armories and lookouts; and prisons converted into museums. Accompanied by writing on architecture, ruins, technology, the politics of looking, of bodies and imaginaries, revolutionary struggle and the choreography between inside and out, Hostile Territory reorients a viewer’s gaze across layers of time that shape the present and future, where architecture is a site of struggle and a repository of social and political memory.

While “hostility” refers to hostilities staged at these thresholds of inside and out, it is also intended as a hostility of meanings — meanings that contradict and undo, disassemble, bend and collapse the carceral logics inside and out, self and other, or that modern policing and imprisonment are innocent means toward community safety. Located beyond the edges  of what carceral regimes know how to see and control, these meanings might make a way for a different repository of meaning to come forward — stories, identities, memories and narratives of survival and subversion that are hostile to the prison’s narratives, its order, vision and schemas of legibility.

Developing out of Hunt’s ongoing visual research into the history and effects of the prison, Hostile Territory originally took shape through the essay, “Politics of Vision in the Carceral State: Legibility and Looking in Hostile Territory,” edited by Michelle Brown for the Oxford Encyclopedia of Criminology. Exhibition images here are the body of work’s featuring for the 2023 Burren Annual, at Burren College of Art in Ballyvaughan, Ireland, where the original essay was edited into this free newspaper, included as a takeaway in the exhibition.