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Mirror/Echo/Tilt, 2015-19

Mirror/Echo/Tilt is a performance and pedagogical project created by artists Melanie Crean, Shaun Leonardo, and Sable Elyse Smith to examine the language and gestures used to describe experiences of arrest and incarceration.

Culminating a four-year collaboration between the artists, the exhibition premieres a multichannel video installation that depicts performances they developed with participants in intensive workshops and filmed largely in decommissioned prisons, empty courthouses, and other psychically charged architectural spaces in New York City.

Drawing on principles from speculative fiction, somatic movement, cognitive psychology, and radical theater, the artists and participants use visual storytelling to reframe their experiences and open up new possibilities for resisting systems of control. Fragmented, doubled, and slowed movements defamiliarize mainstream narratives about carcerality. The project’s title, Mirror/Echo/Tilt, is inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’s famous novel Don Quixote (1605–15), which was written from prison. Much like Cervantes’s novel, Mirror/Echo/Tilt complicates the boundary between fiction and reality, and explores how radically shifting the way we tell stories can challenge dominant power structures.

The project also takes the form of a living curriculum practiced with court-involved youth, formerly incarcerated adults, and individuals otherwise vulnerable to the justice system. The curriculum focuses on undoing the language around culturally embedded conceptions of criminality and will serve as an open resource that lives beyond the artists and the exhibition.

Mirror/Echo/Tilt was the New Museum’s fourth annual Summer Art and Social Justice residency and exhibition, which was on view from June 20 – October 6, 2019. It featured private workshops for community partners, public forums and readings, and a resource room with visions for justice contributed by visitors and facilitated by the New Museum Teen Apprentice Program, a summer youth employment program. The exhibition was curated by Emily Mello, Associate Director of Education, and Sara O’Keeffe, Associate Curator. More information can be found on The New Museum’s site here. Exhibition coverage can be found in The New York Times here.

The project was made possible by an Creative Capital Emerging Fields grant in 2016, and has also been generously supported by the Franklin Furnace Fund and Parsons School of Design.