Oscar Wilde

“Inside – Artists and Writers in Reading Prison”
Artangel @ Reading Prison
Forbury Road, Reading RG1 3HY, UK
September 4 – October 30, 2016

This week UK organization, Artangel, opened a new exhibition at Reading Prison. “Inside – Artists and Writers in Reading Prison” features a plethora of high profile artists, all who are responding to the 1895 incarceration of Oscar Wilde. The infamous literary figure was sentenced to two years in Reading for “gross indecency” due to his romantic affairs (at the time homosexuality was considered a crime in the UK). Open through October 30th, the exhibition marks the first occasion that Reading Prison has been open to the public.

Reading Prison. Image courtesy of Artangel.
Reading Prison. Image courtesy of Artangel.

While in prison, Wilde wrote a 55,000 word letter to his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas. Titled De Profundis, the letter was confiscated on completion, never to be delivered to Douglas. Much of the work of “Inside” was created in relation to De Profundis, with artists connecting its themes to current occurences of solitary confinementsexual persecution, and LGBTQ rights. Ai WeiWei, who experienced mandatory solitary confinement at the hands of the Chinese government, is displaying S.A.C.R.E.D., a piece based on this period of his life, as well as a recently penned prison letter. Jeanette Winterson, Deborah Levy, and Anne Carson also have written letters in response to Wilde’s document.

Neil Bartlett in Reading Prison. Image courtesy of Artangel.
Neil Bartlett in Reading Prison. Image courtesy of Artangel.

Wolfgang Tillmans and Nan Goldin have created brand new work for “Inside.” Goldin exhibits photos and short videos in a row of cells. Also showing are Marlene Dumas and filmmaker, Steve McQueen, who are presenting an installation from within a cell.

Every Sunday during the exhibition, from 12 – 5pm, a writer or performer will read De Profundis in its entirety. Readers include Patti Smith, Colm Tóibín, and Ben Whishaw among others.

For more information on “Inside – Artists and Writers in Reading Prison,” visit the Artangel website.

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