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a reason to continue

a reason to continue - G. B. Piranesi Prison*
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By our nature we need goals and reasons to exist. In the end they are each as arbitrary and inconsequential as any other. Sex, power, money, fame - all are fleeting, and yet in the depths of our misery we look to them to validate our suffering and reward us for the torments we endure. These cell walls are adorned with hundreds of images. Some are of concerts never attended, places never visited, c
ars never owned.

For the most part though, the photographs are pornography of every conceivable type: all manner of softcore and hardcore porn, sex cartoons from magazines, inmate drawings, pinups with speech balloons the prisoners added, some girls with clothing scribbled back onto them with pencils which would seem to defeat the purpose. These images are peeling away in layers, incomplete. There is a fragment of a thigh here, a woman's lips partly open in a sigh there. Eerily, in several cells the women's genitalia have been purposefully burned through, leaving holes in the posters and cutouts. Whether this was done by an inmate or someone else after the prison was abandoned, as an act of censorship or something darker, is beyond me.

It's easy to respond to this display of bared lust with revulsion, but in a way it's an act of survival. To keep from losing all hope, you have to have some goal. The idea of love or being loved is abstract and probably nearly impossible to conceptualize in a prison. Being able to have sex with a beautiful woman, to visit an exotic location, to ride a motorcycle wherever you want with no guards in sight - these are concrete reasons to slog through another day, to bear the burden of confinement and powerlessness until at last you can get to where you'd like to be.

Who am I to judge? We all strive towards this idealization of what will make us "happy" - a nebulous concept to begin with - and the means by which we seek to attain it are no loftier than any on these cell walls. We too hope that objects, experiences, and (of course) sex will somehow fulfill us, but if my experience is any indicator, they never truly do. You still wake up the next day, locked in your own head with the same nagging sense that things aren't right and that somewhere, somehow people out there are leading the good life, but you're not one of them.

You can buy into the cycle we've set up as a species - that of lust and acquisition - and either go about fulfilling your ambitions by what those in power have deemed legitimate means, or you can break society's rules and wind up in jail. In time though, all of the fantasies we plaster around the walls of our cells rot away. The colors fade, the paper crumbles to dust, and the rust and decay beneath show through.

I'm not really sure what is left to us after these things wither. I've been going around looking for some answer to this for quite some time now, and don't feel any closer to the truth. I string myself along too. Each place I visit, each photograph I edit, is a way of creating some reason for going through everything else. I guess it's good to have something to lust after. Otherwise the whole world around us and everything in it would just seem to be falling apart.

Photograph taken at the G.B. Piranesi Prison*. Photograph and text by Matthew Christopher of Abandoned America.

Also in: G. B. Piranesi Prison*