prisão paraíso

research project / 2018 - 2019

Thanks to the collaboration between gatomorto and EDA, the abandoned prison in Trafaria was transformed into an artists' haven. From August to September 2018, artists had the opportunity to live, work, and form a unique community within the prison walls. An ephemeral infrastructure was created during this time, including shared bedrooms, showers, and an improved kitchen, using the woodworking skills of gatomorto and plenty of imagination. The project also sparked discussions about the prison's future use, which remains uncertain.

As a weaver, working without a loom presented a challenge. In 2018, I began collecting and archiving the colors of the prison and its surrounding neighborhood through scanning. Additionally, I experimented with natural dyes extracted from beetroot peels and onion skins found in the kitchen. I also created a botanical installation using plants discovered in and around the prison area. In 2019, the residency expanded to include the historical and protected section of the prison, allowing me to harvest resin from 50-60-year-old dragon trees, resulting in a range of reddish hues. Samples were crafted using pre-mordant natural fibers such as silk, wool, and cotton, as well as handmade and rice paper.

During the project, a serendipitous encounter with a former prisoner provided insight into the age and history of the dragon trees. The ex-prisoner toured the prison, sharing his experiences and memories of the space and its garden. He expressed that despite being a prisoner, he preferred it over serving in the military during the authoritarian regime. It was on April 25th, 1974, that the military coup, symbolized by red carnations, overthrew the regime.

photography: Nicole Kiersz & Philipp Meuser