Berlin, June 2018

Artist Dis-Placement 04: Victoria Tomaschko – The JVA for Women in Berlin and these who work with them


Interim progress report. May 2018.

The present situation is as follows: If possible, I visit the various prison facilities on a weekly basis and spend between two hours and a full day there. In the past few months I have had the opportunity to work with eighteen people who come from almost all fields of prison employment. I work with a range of people, from guards to a priest and nurse. I try to spend as much time as possible with them, accompanying them in their daily routines. In this way I not only get to know them on a personal level but gain insights into their world of work and their professional experiences. Through my work I get a small glimpse into peopleʼs lives and into their work struggles. With all the stories that I carry around with me, resisting the temptation to provide answers is an underlying challenge. How do I tell a story about people without revealing everything and compromising their integrity?
The time I spend with people, and the relationships that have developed allow me to be able to depict them in an authentic visual language. I have the feeling that although I now know a lot, I am still at the very beginning -I know very little. Despite this, the prison environment has become normalized for me. There is a clash between this world and my personal world and work world and I find it challenging to switch between these. On the one hand, I want to gain a deeper understanding of the prison world by spending a prolonged period there in one go, however at the same time I need to leave and close the door. This contradiction presents a hurdle for me as a documentary photographer.
Since 2011 confinement has been my central theme. It is important to me to do justice to the people I meet and the stories I hear. In my work I walk a line between the internal prison world and the depiction of this world to those who are outside it. Maintaining a clear separation between the emotional and professional aspects involved, is a continual challenge as is bringing the process to an end.


In the last few months I have taken a pool of photographs and am now in the process of editing them. The end result will remain as initially planned; individual staff portraits and portraits of them in their work place. Short texts will be included describing their work environment /s well /s interview excerpts.

I am incredibly grateful to those who chose to participate in this project and thank them for the trust they have put in me.


About Artist Dis-Placement: 

The Idea of the Artist Dis-Placement programm is to connect artists to organisations which are not situated in the classical context of the art-sphere in order  to reach a different engagement and an audience which is not naturally in contact with art. ZK/U aims to look at the ‘invisible’ communal services provided by a city. Through the Artist Dis-Placement the ZK/U is extending its actions to the central organisations of the city’s infrastructure.  With this initiative, ZK/U aims to get an artistic overview on what makes a city what it is. By placing artists in organisations involved in a city’s functioning level, we wish to set up a framework for artists to research on the open field of public or semi-public services.

Five other artists are or have been placed at different institutions: Victoria Tomaschko (DE) works with inmates and employees of the women’s prison, Jan van Esch (NL) was at the DRK Berlin, Czech artist Viktor Vejvoda worked at the BSR (Berlin waste management), Alona Rodeh, a Berlin based Israeli artist, looked behind the scenes of the Feuerwehr Berlin (Berlin fire brigade) and Ben Nathan (GB) joined a metal recycling company.

More info about the Artist Dis-Placement program here.