The Boys Home

The Boys Home, installation shot Campbelltown Arts Centre, Sydney.


The Boys Home is an installation produced out of a four-month residency within a maximum security prison for kids. The project has four parts, the photo series Rooms, Jackets and Shields and the short film Doing Time.

Photographic documentation by Alex Wisser.

Exhibited: The List, Campbelltown Arts Centre, August 2014.

The Boys Home, images, 2014.


To read a comment piece in The Conversation click here.
To watch a Das Super Paper interview click here.

Excerpt from Doing Time Catalogue Essay:

Reality is wrong. Dreams are for real, Tupac Shakur.

I spent for four months (March –August 2014) visiting Reiby Juvenile Detention Centre, working with 14-15 year old boys in a series of workshops and projects that led to the filming of Doing Time. Doing Time is an exploration of the experience of time through the eyes of four young people who have been forced to prematurely confront its gravity.

One of the hardest things to grasp about time is its fluidity. Everyday experiences convince us that we all experience time in the same way – four months for me, its seems logical, should be the same duration as four months for one of the boys inside Reiby, even if experienced very differently. Yet for experts in time, such as physicists, things are not quite so straightforward, when you zoom out on a cosmic scale the universal conception of time evaporates. As Brian Greene explains if your “hanging out near the edge of a black hole, an hours passage on your watch will be monumentally longer on mine.” [1]

Prison is often described as a “black hole”. It’s an apt metaphor; prison is a mysterious and hidden place where little light of public scrutiny shines. Yet the way this metaphor is used misses the powerful density of black holes, their role in shaping everything around us. Some of us may never go inside prison, but to use this metaphor a little more scientifically if prisoners are in a “black hole” prisons shape everything about the world outside. These kids may be “locked away” from public view yet none of us can resist the gravitational pull of what Angela Davis calls “the prison industrial complex”.

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare the national rate of Aboriginal juvenile incarceration is 31 times that of non-Indigenous young people. Once inside Reiby it was devastating to see that all the boys I worked with were Aboriginal with the one exception being a boy from Tonga. Most of the boys described jail as a stabilising factor in their lives, somewhere they actually got to go to school, be fed, have a place to sleep. Yet all were emphatic that “you don’t want to be here”, it was a place of loneliness, isolation and fear. As one boy explained “you always have to watch your back in here”.

The storyboard for Doing Time works in two parts. One part is a reality sequence where the boys provide glimpses of their daily rituals, and another part is a dream sequence where the boys experiment with alternate ways of experiencing this reality. The two parts overlap, filmed in the same small courtyard the boys spend their days in. The gaps between reality and dreams is small, but in this tiny gap lies a power of possibility, as Tupac Shakur once said; “reality is wrong, dreams are for real”.

[1] Brian Greene, The Hidden Reality, Penguin Books, London: 2011, p66.