Doing Time

Book, 2019
With Sara Bellamy and Jordi Pol

What would you eat today if you were to die tomorrow?

A person sentenced to death will spend an average of 20 years locked up waiting for the date of his execution. Doing Time is a visual and physical representation of that waiting time. How life becomes a loop and space and time disappears.

Death-sentenced prisoners in the U.S. typically spend more than a decade on death row prior to exoneration or execution. During the waiting time, they are generally isolated from other prisoners, excluded from prison educational and employment programs, and sharply restricted in terms of visitation and exercise, spending as many as 23 hours a day alone in their cells. This raises the question of whether death row prisoners are being subject to two distinct punishments: the death sentence itself and the years of living in solitary confinement, waiting for their time.

But after years or even decades of being stripped of the possibility to choose, they are granted one last choice: food. The idea of a meal before execution is compassionate or perverse, depending on your perspective, but it contains an inherently curious paradox: marking the end of life with the stuff that sustains it seems at once laden with meaning and besides the point.

Content and Design

This project was conceived as a book-object. The aim was to create a narrative and a related design in order to generate an experience. It's not a book because we want, it's a book because it needs to be.

We wanted to portray that feeling of loop and tiredness, a never-ending day; so we generated an image loop. For that, we went to the former La Model penitentiary centre in Barcelona to take some photographies. La Model, Espacio Memorial is the project that recovers and interprets the history of this former penitentiary. This space dedicated to remembrance and memory takes a walk through the premises of La Model. The most outstanding part of this memorial allows explaining phenomena such as the repression of the dictatorship, the executions that for decades were held in spaces like these in Spain or how women or homosexuals lived in a prison of this type throughout the last century. This now-closed space contrast with capital punishment that nowadays still takes place in developed countries like the United States. We decided to take decontextualised and detail photographs and generate this loop during more than 200 pages, finishing with a repetition of about 30 pages of the same image of the ceiling.

The book culminates with a series of artsy representations of real last meals by Celia A. Shapiro. We wanted to kind of honour some executed inmates and produce a clash between the repetition and boringness of the previous photographies and the poppy feel of the food.