Swiss artists Malik and Note were looking for a new challenge, a new and exciting project where they could show their art. One evening in spring 2012, just as Malik was falling asleep, he suddenly had an idea: a prison! In a prison there would be large, untouched concrete walls – a rarityin Switzerland – and it would also be an exciting challenge to confront their artwork with such an environment.
He took a chance and wrote to Lenzburg Prison, saying that they were prepared to paint a mural there for free in case they were interested. They soon received an answer from Marcel Ruf, the prison director, saying that they should call in to discuss the project. To their surprise he was very open to the idea and was prepared to provide everything they would need toget started. The use of taxpayers’ money was of course not permitted.
It quickly became apparent that what had begun as just an idea was rapidly developing into a huge project. The dimensions were enormous. Malik and Note were moving through a complex almost solely comprised of concrete. Gray flowed into gray, complemented by the cloudy sky above: a bare landscape, definedonly by the coldness and emptiness of the concrete.
Together they began to consider what would be the best way to tackle these huge surfaces. As the project evolved it proved to be complex and something that needed to be taken seriously. A long planning and organization phase commenced, which focused on putting together a team of professional artists who were capable of working with such dimensions and were responsible enough to work in a prison environment. Finally Malik and Note selected 16 Swiss well-known Swiss urban artists that met these criteria. Polish artist Robert Proch completed this artists’ collective. All of the artists agreed to work forfree without any hesitation.
The murals that can now be seen in the prison were completed over an 18-month period. Exercise yards, corridors, stairwells, and of course the vast outside walls were been painted by the 16 artists. What began as an idea just before falling asleep evolved into a work of art that is probably unique in this form. The feedback we received shows that both the prison guards and the prisoners are very engaged with the artworks and that they are often the subjects of in-depth discussion – despite little common knowledge about the topic of art, to say nothing of street art.
The book 4661m2 – Art in Prison makes it possible for the reader to gain a comprehensive insight into a project that is otherwise hidden behind the solid concrete walls of Lenzburg Prison. It shows a representative cross section through a wide diversity of urban art that can’t be found in this form and format in any museums. Furthermore, it also illustrates the exemplary character of this project in terms of its function as a role model for projects in similar facilities.The most exciting aspect of this project was getting a first-hand impression of such an institution.