while our death rate appears large in comparison to other prisons, it must be borne in mind that the work done by our prisoners is, almost exclusively, levee building, which is situated in the malarial districts of the state, and is acknowledged to be unhealthy work.
report from the board of control of the louisiana state penitentiary discussing high mortality rates of convicts. 1896 - 1897.
image: prisoners constructing a levee. atchafalaya river basin, louisiana. andrew j. lytle, photographer. circa 1900.
Reflections on a Late Industrial Louisiana is a multi-media exploration of cycles of development and decay in and around southeastern Louisiana. Composed of photographs, films, screen prints and maps, the show presents a fractured narrative of the economic, social and environmental impacts of problematic industries.The exhibition opens March 8th, from 6-9p at The Community Print Shop, located at 1201 Mazant.
This interview appears in the March 2014 issue of Antigravity Magazine.
REFINING THE LANDSCAPE with THE AIRLINE IS A VERY LONG ROAD
Interview by Beck Levy, photographs by Breonne DeDecker
Breonne DeDecker and Darin Acosta, aka The Airline is a Very Long Road, are relentlessly interdisciplinary. Over the past year I have seen Airline include writing, projections, audio, film, and photographs. Their essay-length guides to lesser-known parts of Louisiana include research, reporting, and a bare, sharp narrative. DeDecker, in her words, was “born near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and now resides at the end of it,” and Acosta is from Norco. Their elegant photographs and reporting capture southern disintegration without idealizing it.
There’s something about immersing yourself into a place, devoting yourself to it, that has very specific literary and musical connotations. Airline shares a place in my heart–and in my esteem–with Joan Didion, William Faulkner, Bessie Head, Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska, and certain Neil Young songs. The common thread here is transforming “living somewhere” from the passive to the active. It’s an artistic move from citizenship to stewardship.
Airline’s mission focuses their expansive project: they are committed to finding Louisiana and showing Louisiana. From the abandoned socialist utopia of New Llano to the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac in Plaquemines Parish, it’s a strange landscape. Deep into the age of rebranded neighborhoods (or “colonial hipster mayhem,” as Acosta puts it) we need bold, curious artists to navigate.
I talked with DeDecker and Acosta about the history of their project and their upcoming show.
What is The Airline is a Very Long Road? How did the project begin?
Darin Acosta: Airline is a research project that loosely centers around industrial development in the Gulf South. We use multiple mediums—such as videos, photographs, maps, screenprints, and remixed oral histories—to construct a broad narrative about the region’s industrial growth and decay. The project began as a punk band called Small Bones. We were beginning to feel a little stifled by the range of creative expression (and data analysis) that the band allowed. While some of us turned to PhD programs and gardening, two of us decided to drill deeper into the themes that our lyrics explored: urbanization, environmental racism, gentrification, etc.