Kristin Li, Prison Dispatches, 2020

Artist Kristin Li – based in Toronto and Montreal – presents a new work, Prison Dispatches, at Evergreen Brick Works as part of Evergreen’s call for public art projects addressing issues of equity in public space.

For Prison Dispatches, Li has created a thematic map, drawing attention to prison locations and detainment centres in Ontario. The vinyl map is accompanied by an interactive webpage, which features detailed accounts from prisons across the province.

Kristin Li, Prison Dispatches, 2020, Evergreen Brick Works. Photo: Yuula Benivolski

Since March 2020 (after the onset of the COVID-19) Li has been gathering news articles and documenting stories of conditions and events in Ontario prisons, and she will continue adding to the website until March 2021. In the coming months, Li will populate a timeline of news stories and personal reports from prison institutions across Ontario since the beginning of the pandemic. In doing so, she will solicit contributions and speak with prisoners’ rights organizations doing direct support work, to share perspectives beyond those of the mainstream media. In addition to firsthand accounts, the website will document recent prison updates, including information on current prison conditions and organized resistance.

With frequent updates, the website acts as a living document, presenting prisons as places where people’s lives are happening simultaneously to life on the outside—as opposed to a distant margin beyond which beyond which incarcerated people in Ontario simply disappear from view. Li says of the impetus for the project, sited at Evergreen Brick Works, “I want to foreground the presence of people who, locked away in the name of public safety, cannot physically access public spaces like the Don River Valley.” Li’s work ultimately challenges the spatial logic of the carceral system, which maintains social order by removing certain people from common environments and from the public eye.

Prison Dispatches is part of Evergreen’s call for public art projects addressing issues of equity in public space.

Watch a video about the making of the project.

About Kristin Li

Kristin Li was born in Chengdu, China, and currently works in Toronto and Montreal. As an emerging filmmaker and multimedia artist, Kristin creates experimental narratives, animations, documentaries and installations that explore contemporary formations of power.

These projects recontextualize familiar stories, practices, and institutions to reveal the ways that they constrain us in spite of our intentions, and the hidden sites of possibility that we can nonetheless exploit.

Li’s work has been shown globally, including screenings at Oberhausen (Germany), National Contemporary Art Museum Bucharest (Romania), Cinémathèque quebécoise (Canada), MIX NYC (USA), Videoformes International Digital Arts Festival (France), Bucharest International Experimental Film Festival (Romania), Cinemateca de Curitiba (Brazil), Winnipeg Cinematheque (Canada), Laceno d’Oro (Italy) and Galerie Leonard & Bina Ellen (Canada). Li is currently pursuing an MFA in Film Production at York University.