Each of the stunning photos on this page were captured by Na Forest Lim of Radical Play.
Abolition as Process, Art as Methodology builds on Making Room for Abolition, a 2021 installation of a living room that evokes critical conversations around what stands between us and a world without police and prisons. The intention of this wider body of work is to shift culture and practice toward more abolitionist possibilities today by rendering abolition tangible, believable, relatable and real.
To that end, this work—both the installation and the workshop—focuses on imagining abolitionist worlds through the lens of our home’s most mundane, tangible artifacts: acknowledging how our homes and belongings reflect the world outside and serve as relatable vessels through which we can begin to see glimpses of a radically different future. Home is, for the most part, a relatable realm that makes imagining futures situated at home a little more approachable. This body of work invites us to imagine abolition through home because doing so reflects the fact that carcerality today extends beyond the edifice of the prison or police car and into nearly every system with which we interact, even seeping into our homes. Imagining abolition through the lens of the home allows for multiple entry points to the conversation around abolition, regardless of a person’s experience with the prison industrial complex in its most obvious presentations: imprisonment, policing, surveillance, and more. Carcerality shapes our food systems, the ways we work, how we learn, the media we consume, the values we hold up and those we reject, the people we love and the ways we care for each other. Evidence of these systems are present in every corner of our homes.
This workshop relies on an approach to facilitation adapted from the Situation Lab’s The Thing from the Future, “an imagination game that challenges players to collaboratively and competitively describe objects from a range of alternative futures.” In both games, participants draw cards with central elements of a future scenario—timeframe, the arc of the narrative, the setting, and the intended feeling or experience their object should evoke—before fleshing out the story and imagining an object from that specific context. The intention behind randomizing these elements is to minimize the overwhelmingness of too many choices and allow participants to dive straight into generative conversations, focusing their energy on making more precise decisions within the parameters of the given elements.
Abolition as Process, Art as Methodology departs from The Thing from the Future in a few crucial ways. Both games involve drawing cards from set categories and imagining future objects based on those randomized inputs. In Abolition as Process, Art as Methodology, the categories were more narrowly crafted to address the specific context of abolition and the setting of home; we also offered a more limited set of possible timeframes, focusing on crafting nearer futures. Over dinner, participants fleshed out the worlds they had inherited and the homes they were inhabiting in this future: exploring where they might be in their lives in this timeframe, questioning how our homes and lives might evolve over time, and making collective decisions about the places and contexts in which their objects would be situated.
Finally, participants selected recycled art materials and transformed them into tangible future objects. Participants were encouraged to focus on letting the process be emergent and to allow materials to inspire new ideas and functionalities.