From the book: “Spaces of incarceration are both nowhere and everywhere, blended into our landscapes. But their invisibility is no coincidence. We hide the things that we don’t want to see or that we don’t want seen.”
Written as a graphic-essay of abstract sorts, Toronto-based Tings Chak navigates readers through corridors and stairwells of hidden buildings designed to contain hidden people. A migrant justice organizer with a background in architectural design, Chak uses pen-and-ink drawings of Canadian immigration prisons to illustrate the adverse conditions of what Raphael Sperry, president of Architects, Designers, and Planners for Social Responsibility, calls “architecture [that] is called upon to oppress living beings.”
She blurs the lines between structural and geographic borders through her commentary on society’s lack of empathy for undocumented immigrants whose identities vanish alongside hopeful prospects during time spent inside the book’s prisons.
"Barring a few token 'green' and 'humane' examples, prisons and detention centers are not celebrated architectures, but are what Keller Easterling calls "spatial products." They represent an absence— people are disappeared to these places, the buildings are exiled to peripheries of our cities and towns, and even the drawings and photos of these sites and buildings are highly classified. So, I tried to use the architectural tools of representation at my disposal to challenge this absence or invisibility, to bring detention into our conversations about the built environment," says Chak.
Chak’s non-linear storytelling replicates the discomforting and lost state-of-mind innumerable immigrants encounter while waiting for deportation verdicts that often span years. The slim volume, containing minimal, carefully-chosen conversations between artist and architect, fulfills Chak’s intentions of documenting the undocumented. • (The Architecture Observer, Amsterdam/Montreal, 2014)
View a digital excerpt of the book here.