Unseen and Unheard Things
30 March to 23 May 2017
An exhibition by artist Debbie Adele Cooper at Dartmoor National Park
Artist Debbie Adele Cooper has been researching letters and diaries written by Conscientious Objectors (C.O.s) who served time in Dartmoor Prison and sharing these writings with current inmates of Dartmoor Prison. Between 1917-1919 Dartmoor Prison housed over 1100 C.O.s, men who refused to fight in the war upon grounds of conscience. Together with the prisoners and staff at Dartmoor Prison, Debbie has been exploring a cultural history of incarceration and what it means to be excluded and ostracised from society. Debbie created a sound installation at St George's CCT Church on the Isle of Portland as part of b-side festival in 2016 and this next iteration of the work at Dartmoor National Park see's the culmination of her work with Dartmoor Prison.
Working with the artist, prisoners have read through the diaries from WWI and recorded words from C.O.s' diaries, sharing the Unseen and Unheard Things of incarceration during WWI. Some prisoners have started keeping their own diaries in response to this project.
“When I was first invited to be artist-in-residence at Dartmoor Prison I expected to find the place (and people) aggressive and harsh. Instead I found staff who were welcoming and supportive, and the prisoners who volunteered to work on the project shared a genuine interest in the story of the Conscientious Objectors who were in their cells 100 years ago.”
“During the project I discovered diaries from WWI Conscientious Objectors. I read these diaries to prisoners, and from those initial readings the prisoners have been able to learn, empathise, and for some, to be proud of those men who were in Dartmoor Prison from 1916-1919. Each of these audio recordings is a different WWI diary day, read by a prisoner, and working with the prisoners I have taken photographs of the prison to go alongside the audio.”
Funded by Arts Council and Heritage Lottery Fund, this project has been commissioned and managed by b-side.