About 10 years ago I wrote this statement:
‘I’ve been writing letters to Gary for 18 months. I’m familiar with his story. One letter this year surprised me. He described a friendship of extraordinary intensity and strangeness between two men thrown together by equally curious circumstances. The dichotomy between his and my sense of “normality” struck me keenly.’
Not really sure what this was about, and, until re-reading it, I had forgotten the importance of that friendship that he had described to me. I remember it now. It was strange. And we inhabited such different worlds. I was probably pretty naïve at the time and I’m not sure that his experience of this collaborative project was what he deserved or expected.
I’ve never been in prison: I’m not very disobedient and I like my freedom. I realise other people don’t get a choice. Gary was a lifer (now released on licence): tried unfairly as a 17 year old in an adult court room. The evidence seemed questionable at best. Released early on in his sentence, he fucked it up and was returned where he did far more time than he should ever have done. Long prison sentences ruin lives. The function of prison needs to be addressed and re-assessed. What is it meant to achieve?
This work and some other pieces were shown together in an exhibition of work that was made in response to the exchange of letters. I haven’t included any of Gary‘s as I am no longer in touch with him and don’t have his permission.