10th October

Inside (2)

for Marianne

Inside is an installation, a work of art, temporarily displayed in the disused cells at the back of the Sheriff Court (which still sits in this old county town, though not for much longer). The art is a film, the film is a story, the story is of a man who makes art in prison, because he also makes mistakes and prison is where he goes for making them. These old cells are to be demolished next week; this is the last life that will be in them. TISH 2 YEARS HARD GRAFT is scrawled on a wall, the work of someone who once waited here for judgement, and got it.

This present art tells of a man who has painted the walls of another prison. We watch him on film, his art, his justifications. He explains what he does, what it does for him. Then we are out in the corridor again, released.

We look through the hole in the door of the adjacent cell: there are thousands of people in there! Ledgers and ledgers of births, marriages, deaths. The cell is a storehouse of arrivals, conjunctions, departures. But next week this building will be no more. What about all these lives? Where will they be taken?

I push at the door – it opens! All you people are free to go!

But they stay, bound in their ledgers.

‘You’ll be in here,’ I say. ‘Your birth will be here.’ We don’t have permission, we don’t have authority, but nor will we ever be here again. We shift the ledgers from shelf to shelf, searching for the one with your year of birth, your place of registration. Here it is. We turn the pages and – there you are!

This is where you came in: your moment of arrival, indelible, your parents’ details, your father’s careful signature, the registrar’s confirmation. And here, chronologically around you, are your classmates, the children you grew up with, a few whose names you don’t recall who must have moved away. This is you in this cell, then and now.

And in the cell next door, and somewhere else, that other life.

Two lives, two different roads.

Sixty years’ hard graft.

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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