Striking public art project '8X5' protests against the US criminal justice system

Created by nonprofit arts organisation Art At A Time Like This in collaboration with SaveArtSpace, 8X5 is a billboard exhibition which aims to provoke a dialogue about America's criminal justice system.

Displayed on 30 billboards located near courthouses and government offices in Miami, the campaign features works by leading contemporary artists, including Guerrilla Girls, Shephard Fairey, Trenton Doyle Hancock and Sam Durant. Two other renowned artists with direct experience of incarceration, Sherrill Roland and poet Faylita Hicks, cap off the roster.

Named after the size of an average US prison cell, 8X5 has started out in Miami due to the city having one of the highest incarceration rates in the country. By prominently displaying facts and statistics about the woeful state of the area's legal system, the project hopes to raise awareness of judicial inequalities, instigate dialogue with judges and prosecutors, and provide artists with a platform on this important issue.

A recurring theme of the artwork on display includes statistics unique to the local judicial system in Miami. Sherrill Roland's billboard asks pedestrians, "Did you know that Florida houses over 170,000 prisoners with a ten per cent margin of error?" thereby concluding that the number of unlawfully convicted citizens is enough to fill Florida's Pink Drive Stadium.

Meanwhile, The Guerrilla Girls, an anonymous group of feminist activists who are known for their searing public art campaigns and The Advantages of Being A Woman Artist manifesto, have cried out against "Florida Injusticia" with bus stop banners in both Spanish and English as a way of underscoring the state's enthusiasm for filling prisons.

"Every day, our timelines and media feeds become overrun with the grief, fear, and terror of communities abused and neglected by their governments," says Faylita Hicks. "In this angst-filled world - maliciously designed and curated by our so-called leaders - Art A Time Like This can and does provide the relief, hope, inspiration, and courage that so many are in need of."

By delivering an indictment on the US criminal justice system, 8X5 hopes to kick start promised to change, which has stalled time and time again. It's all part of Art at a Time Like This's belief that artists and the power of visual images can inspire a rethinking.

Running in Miami from now until July 20, 8X5 will also tour the country, stopping at New York City, Houston, Los Angeles and Washington, DC, through 2023. Let's hope it makes a difference.


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