Artangel, renowned for producing extraordinary art in unexpected places, is bringing a major exhibition to Reading this autumn. Inside – Artists and Writers in Reading Prison will take place from 4 September to 30 October 2016.
Leading artists, performers and writers will respond to the architecture of the prison, themes of imprisonment and separation, and the work of the prison’s most famous inmate, Oscar Wilde. In the 1890s, Wilde was imprisoned in Reading Gaol after being sentenced to two years’ hard labour for homosexual practices.
Each Sunday in September and October, writers and performers including Neil Bartlett, Ralph Fiennes, Kathryn Hunter, Ragnar Kjartansson, Maxine Peake, Lemn Sissay, Patti Smith, Colm Tóibín and Ben Whishaw will pay homage to Wilde by reading De Profundis in its entirety in the prison chapel.
New works made by leading artists including Marlene Dumas, Robert Gober, Nan Goldin, Steve McQueen, Jean-Michel Pancin and Wolfgang Tillmans will be installed in the Victorian prison’s corridors, wings and cells. Late nineteenth-century mug-shots of inmates and plans and prints relating to the Separate System, a harsh penal regime designed to eliminate any contact between prisoners, will also be exhibited.
Writers from around the world – Ai Weiwei, Tahmima Anam, Anne Carson, Joe Dunthorne, Deborah Levy, Danny Morrison, Gillian Slovo, Binyavanga Wainaina and Jeanette Winterson – will compose letters from their own direct or imagined experience of a state-imposed separation from loved ones. Visitors will be able to listen to and read their letters in some of the cells of the prison.
Reading residents can get involved with the exhibition as cultural ambassadors, welcoming visitors from around the UK and overseas. Reading UK CIC and RVA are currently recruiting volunteers to help run a unique mobile ‘Welcome to Reading’ arts installation based on the forecourt at Reading Station.