For his artistic practice Robert Glas (1986) uses cinema, photography, scientific literature and fiction to investigate technologies nation-states deploy to enforce the law.
In 1986, Norwegian prison abolitionist Thomas Mathiesen said: ”There is a clear and strong tendency towards the expansion of the prison system throughout the Western world. Even in Holland, traditionally the country with the lowest prison rate in Europe, the flagship telling the world that it is possible to have a complex industrialised society with very few prisoners, there is now a noticeable expansion in the making.” That same year, renowned architect Carel Weeber drew up his design for a prison complex in Rotterdam, one of the many Dutch prisons build in the 1980s, in use to this day. As part of his design process Weeber had a 1:1 scale test build of a single prison cell. While there are conflicting accounts on how his test went about, one thing is certain: such a test demands the imagination of how the space will be used, by whom, and in what condition.
In his film ‘1986, Or A Sphinx‘s Interior’, Robert Glas rebuilds Weeber’s test set up. Working with actor Ali-Ben Horsting, Carel Weeber himself, and a former detainee of the prison, various versions of Weeber’s visit to the test setup are constructed and reconstructed. The result orbits around imagining how a life and a body are affected by confinement, this sentence we talk about so often and know so little about.