Extra Muros an Installation & Event by Maria Papanikolaou. Athens (2011)
The title "extra muros" paraphrases the latin phrase "in muros", that is mainly used to describe the life that we barely see and therefore acknowledge, namely the life beyond prison walls. Extra Muros is part of the art project "Apo-drasis", which includes a series of fictional jailbreak stories. These stories are written by the artist and gradually come to be the springboard for the creation of sculptures, installations, photographs and videos. For the most part they focus on events & actions that challenge the architecture and construction of the prison cell, such as digging tunnels, cutting window bars, demolishing walls, etc. The installation "Extra Muros" is based on the fictional story below: 56 prisoners escaped from a rural chinese prison by breaking the walls literally with bare hands. At their surprise the construction material of the wall was easily erodible by vinegar, a liquid produced in quantity at the prison fields. For more than a year the prison inmates have been spraying vinegar at the same wall, so that it was gradually worn away and its thickness was reduced down to a few millimeters. At dawn on March 29 they finally managed to break the prison wall open and escape. More specifically the artist created a plaster wall based on the story and used it in order to block the main entrance of the exhibition venue. The wall was designed to be flimsy, incoherent and fragile. Its main feature was the see-through plaster surface. The plaster was at some spots very thin, nearly transparent. Since the entrance wall was darkened on purpose the visual result was that the first visitors were able to see fragments of light coming through the "wall". The fragility of the wall created by the artist related to the prison wall of the fictional story the day it became fragile enough to be broken by the inmates. The visitors had to break the wall themselves in order to enter to the exhibition centre. The initial goal of the project above was to explore the visual representation of imprisonment and the prisoner in particular in the fine arts field. Since the prisoner is usually depicted as a helpless and passive victim in the majority of relevant artworks (especially paintings), the image of an empty cell is rather challenging. The artworks described above generate cell images where the human presence can only be implied by the action of breaking out. Therefore it presents a prison devoid of prisoners. In addition the prisoner is presented here as an active subject that defines its future and reconstructs the given space in order to gain his freedom back.