Over the last year Simon has been working with prison staff from IRC The Verne, a local falconer and the Bird Observatory on Portland Bill to create a unique installation for the rarely visited historic tunnels and walls of IRC The Verne.
‘Passage’ brings together nature, heritage and direct experience of being inside the Verne. It includes video, sound and sculpture presented within the walls of the citadel.
Empty of prisoners for a few months whilst being converted from a prison to an immigration removal centre, artist Simon Ryder took this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore the Verne – its architecture, past lives and its place within the isle of Portland – with a freedom and sense of play not normally possible.
Filming with heat-sensitive cameras, he tracked a team of squash players (a game that originated in 18th-century prisons) as they 'sounded out' the empty cells and courtyards, the ricochets and echoes of ball against wall building into an immersive portrait of confinement and release. Alongside this, and drawing upon archive footage from the 1960s of the prisoner-run Bird Rescue Centre, Simon looked beyond the walls at the Verne in the context of the island and its place as an important stopping-off point for migrating birds.
Simon has kept a blog about his residency at The Verne click here to read how the project evolved.
Guidance: To see Simon’s sound and film installation in it’s entirety the tour starts and finishes from HMP The Verne South gate (near The High Angle Battery), the whole walk will probably take around 30 mins and involves stairs and areas of darkness. Stewards will light your way but please note this route is not accessible for those with limited mobility.
Part 2 of Simon’s installation is in the Jailhouse Café, which is accessible and has parking.
Credit: With thanks to IRC The Verne and Expia CIC