Yarl’s Wood

I have been thinking about my research interests and the problems I encountered when making work for the interim show regarding expressing my ideas in a visual way. I think perhaps this may stem from the fact that I have been thinking in fairly abstract terms, about power, language, landscape, plants, borders, control, mobility, etc etc – and I think it would be helpful for me to have something more concrete to respond to, such as an historical event, story or site that links to these themes. Having complete freedom can actually be sort of paralysing, so imposing some limitations may be useful.

One idea I have had is to make a piece in response to the Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire. Yarl’s Wood is a residential centre with capacity for 900 people awaiting immigration clearance. It has been the subject of an undercover report for Channel 4, which exposed some of the cruel and inappropriate behaviour of the centre staff, and brought to light stories of mistreatment and ethically dubious practices within the institution.

Although Yarl’s Wood is not a prison, it bears some similarities including barbed wire fences, CCTV and cells for people to ‘cool down’ in if they have caused a disturbance. One of the main criticisms Yarl’s Wood has faced is the detention of pregnant women.

I find this site interesting in terms of my research because of the peculiar nature of the detention centre, where the residents have not been granted permission to stay in the country, yet are prohibited from leaving it. It represents an interstitial zone between states: citizen and alien, free and captive, legal and illegal…

My initial idea is to go to Yarl’s Wood and film around the perimeter of the site. I want to film the landscape around the centre, the plant life and natural elements. I would like to then display this in a multi-screen installation, perhaps using several tv monitors, in a mock CCTV control room set-up as inspired by the Channel 4 footage of the control room in the centre.

yarlswoodcontrolImage from the architects: http://www.oneltd.com/portfolio/other-markets/yarls-wood-immigration-removal-centre

yarls wood screen test from Annabel Duggleby on Vimeo.

Here is a quick test I did using the screen recording function in QuickTime, for possible footage options in the piece. I think satellite imagery would be appropriate because it conjures ideas about surveillance, control and mapping.


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