The 51st (Free) State is a project generated at Stateville Prison, where over the last year research and discussions have centered around the idea of a nation of incarcerated people. The prison population in the U.S. is, indeed, the size of some nation states. The struggles, pains, joys, hopes, creativity, intellect, and vision of the 2.2 million people incarcerated in the U.S. also reflect that of other nations of people. The 51st (Free) State is a body of work that includes emblems, songs, choreography, graphic narratives, and stage sets to connect the thousands of people incarcerated across the nation through a spatio-political imaginary. Far from being disposable, this community is one with a certain kind of sovereignty, and constructing a speculative state of freedom is a means to achieve a corporeal state of freedom.
The work in this project includes a performance featuring dance, music, and texts that will be projected throughout the city in the spring of 2021. In addition, exhibitions of the emblems and other works are on-going.
Artists in this project include Aaron Barnes, Robert Curry, Ike Easley, Darrell Fair, Antoine Ford, Aaron Hughes, Lamaine Jefferson, Allen Johnson, John Knight, Damon Locks, Derrick Parks, Sarah Ross, Rayon Sampson, Carlvoiser Smith, Johnny Taylor, Devon Terrell, Antwan Tyler, and Kevin Walker, and Anna Martine Whitehead.