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A collaborative site-specific art exhibition to take place in abandoned war-era prisons throughout Eastern Europe.
A collaborative site-specific art exhibition to take place in abandoned war-era prisons throughout Eastern Europe.
126 backers pledged $10,321 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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We're artists based out of the New York metropolitan area, but first friends for over a decade. It’s an interesting dichotomy- we are active in every aspect of each other's lives except for art making. We have vastly different ideas on art, from personal thesis to preferred materials. Until now.

What is The Penitentiary? 

The Penitentiary is a collaborative site-specific art exhibition to take place in abandoned war-era prisons throughout Eastern Europe. Under this title we will operate a series of projects to transform each prison's standing structure and explore it’s personal history by extending the use and availability of unrestricted public art.

Our objective //

As a span of dictators and regimes occupied this region for hundreds of years in present day we will focus on each country's political history alongside each space’s physical and structural abandon. We are organizing an ambitious yet imperative long-term art project, which will allow each country's path to independence be expressed through artistic forum. With this unity of Eastern European and American cultures, we will explore what it means to be democratic; to possess the privilege of free speech; to live a life where expression is encouraged and government is overtaken by the hands of those who thrive in these same freedoms.

The location //

In 1840, Patarei was built as a sea-fortress to protect Estonia from foreign invaders.

 Unfortunately, the very thing Patarei stood to avoid was it’s ending demise. After the first Soviet occupation of Estonia in 1940, the prison came under the jurisdiction of the Soviet secret police. It was then transformed into a 10 acre fully functional prison with barracks, theater, bakery, hospital and execution room - last used in 1991.

After three Russian revolutions, a brutal German-Nazi occupation and a Red Army invasion, Estonia finally became a free Republic and as of 2004 the prison became unoccupied and since left abandoned.

The art //

The project will take place during a three month period. Each month will have a complete changeover of featured artists and uses of space. The inaugural exhibition will consist of multiple projects by different artists in unoccupied decaying spaces. Each artist is encouraged to embody their medium of choice while incorporating, however large or small, Patarei and it’s history.

As the months go by, we will continue to host:

  • video projections 
  • water-based performance 
  • painting and drawings 
  • sculptural installations 
  • lecture series 
  • opening and closing ceremonies 
  • film screenings
  • live music and theater

Why prisons, and why Eastern Europe? //

It all started in 2008, with an impromptu day trip to Goli Otok, an abandoned island off the coast of Croatia that houses a prison dating back to the Tito days. This decrepit site, not far from the now popular coast, in current day can easily go undetected in Croatia's peripheral view. Fascinated by this apathy, we wondered, "How does a nation deal with the darker parts of its history?" Whether they choose to ignore, suppress, or acknowledge, we wanted to pay tribute to the history of these places by looking ahead toward their future. And what better way to tap into this spiritual necessity than to invite artists from all over to pay homage to the site?

Why Patarei? //

Through our research of the area and it's abandoned prisons, we stumbled upon Patarei. Having closed down fairly recently, it was still a fresh wound in Estonia's past that was just starting to heal.

We delved into this location full-force, soaking up all available information about the prison and it's motherland. As time went by we began to learn more about the upcoming arts and culture scene not only in Tallinn, the city of which Patarei resides, but nationwide. Here was an abandoned Soviet-era prison hosting all kinds of cultural events and an audience dealing with its country's history in their own way. We want to fuel the dialogue and create an experience that encourages inspiration to grow from ruins. 

Where you come in //

As you can imagine, planning an international project on our own comes with pretty hefty expenses. We are hoping to get as many artists involved, but that requires more equipment, materials, and space to rent. 

We’ve calculated the budget of our estimated equipment expenses and living stipends. Here's a basic idea of what we'll be doing with the funds raised:

  • Event Space Rental - $5,000  
  • Materials/Equipment - $10,000 

to name the basics: video projectors / wood, canvas, paint, etc / costumes / sound system / video production / installation equipment / licensing fees

  • Travel/Food/Living - $5,000 
  • Marketing - $3,000

Though we have set this goal to $10,000, it is only half of what we need to make this project operate, so please do not stop donating if the budget is reached!

 We realize that a lot of successful campaigns are hinged on the fact that those donating have the opportunity to interact with the outcome of their donation, i.e watching the film after funding it's production, visiting the gallery after funding the artwork, etc. We understand that you may pass this up because if you are not planning to make it to Estonia you may not experience a physical connection to your philanthropy. For this reason we've worked especially hard to create perks that remedy this problem and shorten this distance by bringing you closer to a project that is in every way yours just as much as ours.

Together, we've taken a brainstorm with great creative and visionary potential and transformed it into a thriving production. We've put forth all efforts, from defining our conceptual theories to drafting final plans for installation. We've made it this far, however there’s not much more we can do by ourselves, so we must now turn to you for support.

Risks and challenges

Working in another country thousands of miles from home, nonetheless one of such obscurity, will certainly require a period of adjustment. For instance, we will be faced with the obvious language barrier and unfamiliarity of the land. However, throughout the years we have always managed to make it through the most challenging of circumstances, be it in our work or our personal lives, with our chins up.

Throughout the years we've shared many experiences, both happy and sad. We've gained the ability to work through unpredicted situations, some simple and some more complex. Through this we've gained a greater knowledge of the in's and out's of one another's mind.

As a result our understanding of each other's artistic vision and practice has grown more sharp. As an artistic unit, we can pull from past experiences and face each challenge with a comprehensive understanding of our responses to stress. We know how to compromise when necessary and work through problems. When making a decision, taking into account one another's personal interests, opinions, and wishes is now in our nature. We share a mutual code of work ethic and devotion and have learned how to bridge our separate strengths into one strong force. We work, and will continue to work, as a yin and yang, providing the perfect compliment to each half.

This isn't to say that we expect everything to run smoothly, but it is a promise that no matter what, we will always give it our all and face anything and everything head on.

With most appreciation,
Marina & Cat

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $5 or more About $5

    If you can't come to Estonia, we're bringing Estonia to you! Be kept up-to-date with your very own virtual tour of our exhibit and live streaming of performances and events. Includes email updates of all that’s to come.

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    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    A set of 4 professionally printed postcards featuring original drawings and designs by us! Includes the complete virtual tour perk.

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    Be a part of our interactive geometric string installation in the courtyard! You will be mailed a hand crafted wooden tag to personalize with your own message. The tag will then be hung on the installed work for others to read, interpret and react to what you have written. This act mirrors the network created with string, connecting people by the ideas shared. You will be able to put your own touch on the art and reach out to strangers hundreds of miles away. Includes the complete virtual tour perk.

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    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    You’ll receive a hand-pressed totebag with an original design inspired by Patarei Prison. Includes the complete virtual tour perk.

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    Pledge $35 or more About $35

    Own your very own DVD or Blu-Ray copy of the video pieces shown at Patarei. These will be original, new works created intentionally for the project. Includes the virtual tour perk.

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    Pledge $45 or more About $45

    You can’t miss out on this deal! Includes the wooden tag perk, the set of 4 printed postcards perk, and the virtual tour perk.

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    Pledge $45 or more About $45

    Two is always better than one! Includes the totebag park, the set of 4 printed postcards perk, and the virtual tour perk.

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    Pledge $45 or more About $45

    Hooray for discounts! Includes the totebag perk, the wooden tag perk, and the virtual tour perk.

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    Pledge $60 or more About $60

    Is this a fire sale? Get the set of 4 printed postcards perk, the totebag perk, the wooden tag perk, and the virtual tour perk.

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    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    Many pieces will be exhibited at Patarei. Own your own print of one of the art pieces! Includes the virtual tour perk.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Receive a copy of our exhibition catalogue that chronicles our time spent at Patarei! Includes your choice of either the totebag perk, wooden tag perk, or set of 4 postcards perk, along with the virtual tour perk.

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    Pledge $125 or more About $125

    This one is for the fellow creative types! Submit a written review of our project or inspired artwork which will then be published in our exhibition catalogue. This is your chance to express your thoughts or spread your own art. All writers and artists will be credited as official contributors to the publication. Submitters will receive a copy of the catalogue with their published piece. Includes your choice of either the totebag perk, wooden tag perk, or set of 4 postcards perk, along with the virtual tour perk.

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    You’re practically a producer! Be an exhibition sponsor. A plaque with your name will be installed at the exhibit, letting everyone know who funded the event. Includes your choice of either the totebag perk, wooden tag perk, or set of 4 postcards perk, along with the virtual tour perk.

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    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    Your personal art piece created by the artists! You will receive an original piece of artwork by an artist of your choosing. The subject and medium will be determined by you and the artist. Includes your choice of either the totebag perk, wooden tag perk, or set of 4 postcards perk, along with the virtual tour perk.

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Are we seeing double? With this perk, you will receive TWO pieces art, one made by Marina and one made by Cat! The subject and medium will be determined by you and the artist. Includes your choice of either the tote bag perk, wooden tag perk, or set of 4 postcards perk, along with the virtual tour perk.

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    My oh my! You get to help us design one of the exhibitions to take place at Patarei! Be completely involved in the creative process as you help us decide everything from themes to artists featured! Includes the tote bag perk, wooden tag perk, set of 4 postcards perk, and the virtual tour perk.

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Funding period

- (28 days)