Minimum Security


Steel, stone, video

Cell: 243,8 × 345,4 × 182 cm ; Stone: 127 × 96,5 cm ; Video: 5min. 46sec.

This work by the American artist David Hammons reproduces the exact structure and layout of a detention cell in the San Quentin penitentiary in California. Built in the nineteenth century by the inmates themselves, this prison is the only one in the state still authorized to apply the death penalty. In the vicinity of the structure, whose minimal character, like a line drawing, reinforces the analogy with a cage, a rock—also taken from the prison's environment—is placed on the floor, while the keys to the cell hang on the wall. For almost fifteen years after its creation, this work remained in the artist's studio without ever being exhibited to the public.

A video in which the work is seen in situation in the studio shows the artist walking towards the structure, wearing a black coat and a high hat, dressed for a ceremony. At two points he stops to spray the cell with a liquid from his mouth. He then opens the door with a key and slams it shut, leaving the keys in the lock. The door creaks and swings back with a sinister metallic sound. After the artist has disappeared and the echo is gone, all that remains in the immense room is the structure, inescapable and silent.

Installed for the very first time in 2021 in the "Ouverture" exhibition of the Bourse de Commerce, Minimum Security (2007) is presented, in its video form, at the entrance to the exhibition devoted to David Hammons, while the installation closes the presentation in the final room. This presentation was made with the collaboration of the artist, who chose to house the work in the former Salle des pas perdus of the Bourse de Commerce.