DIE/GEST is an interactive, suspended sculpture inspired by the life and experience of co-creator Keith LaMar, who has spent 28 years in solitary confinement on death row in Ohio for a crime he didn’t commit.
An interdisciplinary collaboration between pianist and composer Albert Marques, his wife, sculptor Mia Pearlman, and poet and author Keith LaMar, DIE/GEST extends Freedom First into visual art. DIE/GEST will travel to museums and galleries around the United States throughout 2022 and 2023, including the MSU Broad Museum, accompanied by a live Freedom First concert at each venue.
The concept for DIE/GEST grew out of Keith's metaphor for prison and the system that framed and convicted him for murder as a digestive system designed to break people down.
This monumental sculpture faceted with prison supplies, building materials, four small video screens and other materials, DIE/GEST will allow viewers to trigger separate music tracks and video tracks of Keith talking about his personal evolution. When multiple sensors are triggered, they will combine into a unique and groove-filled spoken word-jazz composition.
The shape of DIE/GEST will be abstract, simultaneously organic and manmade, like the geologic remains of a building that both crushes and is being crushed by invisible and merciless forces. Approximately 20 feet long x 8 feet wide x 12 feet tall, the sculpture will be larger than the cell where Keith has been trapped for almost three decades.
Told through the sculpture, videos of Keith and music, viewers will experience Keith’s internal journey over these long decades and its inherent dualities: internal vastness vs. external confinement, being on a journey while forced to stay in one place for 28 years, being alone while surrounded by people, and being surrounded by support while being alone.
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Mia Pearlman has exhibited internationally in numerous galleries, non-profit spaces and museums, including the Museum of Arts and Design (NYC), Goyang Aram Gallery (South Korea), Smack Mellon (Brooklyn, NY), the Renwick Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Manchester Art Gallery (UK).
Pearlman is also a founder and co-leader of True Blue NY, a progressive grassroots organization that in 2018 was instrumental in defeating the IDC, a breakaway conference of 8 NY state senators who blocked progressive legislation in every area by giving Republicans control of the state senate. TBNY helped drive many groundbreaking legislative wins in 2019 and 2020. As a result of this work, activists from Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC) were able to pass the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act (HALT), limiting the use of solitary confinement to no more than 15 days.
Permanent commissions include large scale, site specific sculptures for Liberty Mutual's headquarters in Boston, the 80th Street A Train station for the MTA in Queens, New York, MGM Springfield in Springfield, MA, and Zhongshan Huafa Plaza in China, as well as paper installations and sculptures for Leon Max (London) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (NY).
Her work has been featured in over 25 books on contemporary art, and in both international and domestic press, including The New York Times, New York Magazine, The New York Post, and The Boston Globe. Pearlman has also appeared on PBS Thirteen’s SundayArts, the Smithsonian Channel, Spain’s TV3, and NY1
Pearlman has participated in several residency programs and has been the recipient of many grants, including a 2011 Artist Grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the 2011 Robert Sterling Clark Visual Arts Space Award, a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant (2008), a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency Grant (2008) and an Established Artist Fellowship from UrbanGlass (2009).
Pearlman lives and works in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and collaborator, Catalan pianist Albert Marques, and their two children.
Keith LaMar is a writer, artist, and activist who has spent almost 30 years in solitary confinement on death row in Ohio for a crime he didn’t commit. On November 16, 2023, Ohio intends to execute him. LaMar has fought for decades to defend his innocence and his life.
LaMar was sentenced to death in the aftermath of the 11-day 1993 Lucasville Prison Uprising, when the State of Ohio found themselves under public pressure to clean up the multi-million dollar mess. The State Highway Patrol had contaminated all the evidence by trampling through the crime scene, and thus prosecutors developed a strategy to reward jailhouse informants to implicate LaMar for the deaths of fellow inmates. To secure his conviction, they withheld the statements that would have proven his innocence, including confessions from the actual perpetrators. LaMar's trial took place in a remote Ohio community with an all-white jury, who swiftly sentenced him to death.
He regularly speaks to classes at high schools and universities around the country about the prison industrial complex, and leads multiple book clubs with high school students. LaMar’s non-profit, Native Sons, distributes books to at-risk youth. His podcast Pieces of A Man with musician Brian Jackson can be heard on Spotify and other platforms.
LaMar is the author of Condemned, which recounts the story of the Lucasville Prison uprising and his decades-long struggle to defend his innocence, and a forthcoming autobiography. His essays have been published in Mother Jones and The San Francisco Bay View.
Background image: Mia Pearlman, EVIL GARBAGE AND HIS KREMLIN KLAN GESTAPO, 2017, Paper, Kraft paper, India ink, cardboard, garbage bags, plastic sheeting, foam wrap, foam board, tacks, clips, 21 x 12 x 4.5 feet