“Did you know that between 1970 and 2000, the incarceration rate in the United States increased by more than 400%?”
That’s the first question that UC Berkeley student Eli Martinez asked a group of visitors last month while he was giving a tour of a new exhibition, Undoing Time: Art and History of Incarceration . The exhibition, which opened at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA) on Sept. 3, is an artistic inquiry into the historical, political and philosophical dimensions of incarceration and its aftermath.
To help unpack the themes of Undoing Time, BAMPFA partnered with Berkeley Underground Scholars , a campus program that creates a pathway for incarcerated, formerly incarcerated and system-impacted people into higher education.
Martinez, a fourth-year sociology major, enrolled at Berkeley through Berkeley Underground Scholars and is now the program’s operations coordinator. He, along with two students from the program — Michelle Maxwell and Erin Katherine McCall — are working with BAMPFA this fall to share their perspectives on the themes of Undoing Time.
The exhibition, a project that began at the Arizona State University Art Museum, includes 11 artworks by emerging and established artists. It focuses on the carceral experiences of communities in the Western and Southwestern United States.
One multimedia installation, by Sandra de la Loza, highlights the history of Los Angeles’ Lincoln Heights Jail — a decommissioned carceral complex built in 1927 that was reclaimed by local artists and transformed into a space for creative expression. It’s something that Martinez told visitors he hadn’t known about even though he grew up near that area of LA.
Undoing Time: Art Histories of Incarceration runs through Dec. 18. Members of Berkeley Underground Scholars will continue to lead tours throughout the exhibition’s run. Read more about Undoing Time on BAMPFA’s website.