Art in Captivity: Five Imprisoned Image-Makers

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CREDIT: ‘This Is Not a Film’ (2011, Jafar Panahi)

 

The other day we wrote about dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s photo project for W magazine. The photographs were taken in New York with Weiwei directing the action via Skype from his Beijing studio, one of two locations to which he has been confined. But Weiwei is not the only artist in recent memory who has produced art under house arrest or in prison.

 

Why does the caged bird sing? Here are five image-makers – photographers, filmmakers, painters and Lindsay Lohan – who have made art in captivity.

 

 

 

 

1. Ai Weiwei

 

CREDIT: W Magazine Art Directed by Ai Wei Wei, shot by Max Vadakul

 

The dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has collaborated with US fashion magazine W on a series of images for their November issue. The photographs were taken in New York with Weiwei, thirteen time zones away in his Beijing studio, directing the shoot via Skype. Since his arrest by Chinese authorities in April and subsequent release in June, Weiwei has been prohibited from speaking publicly, giving interviews, and must seek permission to travel outside his studio and home.

 

 

 

2. Jafar Panahi

 

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Acclaimed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi’s documentary ‘This is Not a Film’ played at Cannes earlier this year. Panahi is confined to his apartment in Tehran, awaiting the verdict of his appeal against a six-year prison term and twenty-year ban on filmmaking. With ‘This is Not a Film’ Panahi exploits a loophole in his sentence by appearing in front of the camera, rather than behind. The film, which depicts a day in Panahi’s life, was smuggled out of the country on a USB stick hidden inside a cake.

 

 

 

3. Htein Lin

 

CREDIT: Htein Lin, produced while in prison

 

A Burmese painter, performance artist and activist, Htein Lin spent six and a half years as a political prisoner in Burma from 1998 to 2004 accused of planning opposition activities. He was not officially allowed to paint during his incarceration but managed to produce more than three hundred paintings in secret, using white cotton prison uniforms as a canvas. He bribed the prison guards to smuggle paint to him but it was too dangerous to have a paintbrush in his cell. Instead Lin used objects that were available to him, including cigarette lighters, pieces of glass, or simply his fingers and hands.

 

 

 

4. Roman Polanski

 

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In 1977, Polish film director Roman Polanski, the man behind ‘Chinatown’ and ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, was arrested on charges of sexual assault. Polanski fled the United States for France mere hours before sentencing by the judge (check out the revealing documentary ‘Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired’ about the court case, trailer above). As a French citizen, Polanski had been protected from extradition, but when he tried to enter Switzerland to attend a film festival he was arrested at the request of U.S. authorities. He was kept in prison for two months, and then put under house arrest while fighting extradition. There he completed the editing of his Hitchockian ‘The Ghost Writer‘.

 

 

 

5. Lindsay Lohan

 

 

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Earlier this year troubled actress Lindsay Lohan was placed under house arrest for thirty-five days for stealing a necklace from a jewellery store and violating terms of her probation. During her house arrest Lohan appeared in a low-rent advert for an Internet auction site.

 

 

 

 

By Mark Wright (Assistant Editor)

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