Time — 1/12
Each month, the photographer Bertrand Gaudillère creates an image or chooses one from his archives. Prison Insider sends it to a dozen participants, prisoners around the world. They are in Argentina, in the United States of America, in France, in Switzerland, in Guatemala, in Ukraine, in Colombia, in Lebanon, in Italy, in Japan and in Belgium.
An image to initiate a dialogue to be sustained through the entirety of 2018. The opportunity to introduce oneself, and, to start the exchanges, talk about time.
Bertrand talks to the participants¶
This photo, to initiate the correspondence, to say or rather, to show who I am… Immobile before this window, stuck as if time had stopped itself at the image of the clock without hands to which I turn my back, I cast my gaze towards the exterior light. I have the luxury of looking outside, of watching life run its course through the ups and downs of a year that ends, I have the luxury of running or stopping, of playing with the hours, of occupying them, of losing them, or of simply watching them fly by…
Prison Insider invites you to reply to Bertrand Gaudillère’s reflections. How do you yourself experience the passage of time? How can the experience of confinement change your perception of seconds, months, or years?
United States of America, Lake Placid (New York)
Bertrand admires life's flow. I've grown to appreciate the stillness of the night
A clock with no hands, yet time possesses a firm grip. Clawing at a freedom many of us have never known. For Bertrand’s gaze is outward. I stare deep within. Peeking at the harmonious undertones which play like soft jazz within my soul. Bertrand admires life’s flow. I’ve grown to appreciate the stillness of the night. Here nothing “flies”, not even time, thus dreams do fade like the sun when night falls.
Speak time, speak prison, but how ? The despair, the harsh reality of mans inability to feed on life’s harvest is enough to leave one speechless. There are no seconds, no minutes, no months nor years, only endless pain, forever deprivation. Until we discover those prepared to “look” inside we are all doing time.
Life is at times difficult, but a damn nice thing
Time always goes on as usual, but when we occupy ourselves with things that interest us, it flies inexorably. We must hence accept and live all the moments of life while appreciating them because they make life valuable.
There are no bad moments; everything contributes to a person.
But there is always a choice, and it remains for a person.
There is no time; there is only an instant, which is here and now.
“Life is at times difficult, but a damn nice thing.”
“Not sharing the fuss.”
“Awareness of ourselves in the world around us.”
Read the original version (russian)
Only an eventual leave reminds me that time is here, in the awaiting of getting out.
Time. The clock without handles freezes us in a lethargic and immutable state. I feel the time passing, like a clock of a bygone era, marking, with its swing, the hours going by.
The rhythm of the days with its tasks, activities, administrative and medical appointments makes me notice it most. Though, impossible to keep track of the seconds and minutes; only an eventual leave reminds me that time is here, in the awaiting of getting out.
There, indeed, my eyes remain fixed on the alarm clock, on these seconds that seem to trickle by, which resonate through everyday meanders of confinement, where one imagines the days, the seconds, the minutes… the years going through different stages; internal appointments, and visits from the outside to maintain social and family ties.
One can thus say “time spent in prison”.
“Prison taken by time” Or
“Prison depleted by the time passing”
“Prison and time”?
Our clock should only show seconds, that are so beautiful
Tomorrow? Or was it yesterday?¶
Waiting for tomorrow; a tomorrow just like today, yesterday, the day before, this day last week, last year, last century. And just like the day after tomorrow. And just like this day in three months, in one year, one century. Our clock does not have hands, it can’t have. It should only show seconds, that are so beautiful. Fleeting, very fleeting. The hours aren’t; they are awful. So slow, so ugly.
Perhaps these things seem trivial and easy to understand. However, they are difficult to communicate to people on the outside; they have their own time, we have ours.
Our time is one for dreaming, for planning the “second stage” of our life. But it takes us only so far, as suddenly, we must face the fact this is where we will die. Hope is short-lived: but what is it exactly? We don’t know.
Perhaps it’s time to invent our own measure of time. I think about all that…but it’s time to take off: it’s time to eat. What time is it at your place?
Read the original version (italian)
Our perception of time clearly changes in prison. It’s almost like a timer is set in our heads that ticks off every second of our sentence and that makes us get into a routine. I need to invent a story every day, week, month, and year, to drown the boredom, and that leads to stress.
Here is a rebellious man in his silence and meditation, in his passion and wishes that penetrate all the insulators and bars; that penetrate the black darkness and the noise of the place. I do not have authority over injustice, nor do I have authority over the holes that are invaded by the light beam without permission. I am just a body and a bunch of hanging ideas trapped in worn out places and waiting for the crossing bridge that will take me to the other side.
The clock may be disrupted, but my thoughts will remain to soar and spin constantly for the pulse of life does not stop, the time does not stop and nor does the silence.
My thoughts, meditations and dreams are flaming despite the coldness of the isolated place, for the warmth does not come from the fireplace, but from the love and the tenderness that I have hidden between the ribs.
— Read the original version (Arabic)
I won’t lie to you: you need to know that the man who enters today, no matter how much or how little time he spends in this underworld, will never be the same when he goes back to a life that no longer awaits him
WHILE STILL UNDER THE SHOCK of your arrest, you are put in a cell which will be your “home” for the next few days, months or years… it’s always unknown.
Sometimes you imagine that you are in a room in your home, looking out the window. You think you are seeing the daily routine, but everything is an illusion. The window you look out of shows only prison walls. It is not a dream; it is reality and you are trying to accept all this. You still can’t believe you are the main character in this story, deprived of freedom; that freedom which holds so many things that have been taken from you.
Meanwhile, outside, life goes on; inside, it is put on hold. Then you realize how expendable you are. It’s like the saying in that old movie: “You will go, I will go, and the birds will continue to sing”. Outside, life continues, and makes so much progress that you doubt you will be able to catch up to it, to catch hold of it, when you get out of this captivity. I won’t lie to you: you need to know that the man who enters today, no matter how much or how little time he spends in this underworld, will never be the same when he goes back to a life that no longer awaits him.
Suddenly you are surrounded by the loneliness and the terrible silence of the cold walls of your cell… And then you wake up and you wonder if you can survive this. You will have to work hard to kill time, and hope that time does not end up killing you.
Time… it’s always relative. Sometimes it’s slow, so slow that you can hold it in your hands and make it into shapes, like someone playing with clay. That’s when it is better not to watch the clock, because it is torture, waiting for the hand to go full circle second after second to count another minute. However, looking back, it’s almost impossible to think I’ve been here for nine months, in this dead end.
I remember some time ago, during an intimate moment, I told someone, “With you, the hours seem like seconds.” The paradox of this sad life now is that every second seems endless – a pause, an interruption, that with luck will seem like little more than a minute; and without such luck will end up killing you from idleness and loneliness. Outside, nobody has any time; inside, we have too many hours, plus the hours that come after those, and the next and the next.
Incarceration changes everything: not only your perception of time, but how you feel, how you live and how you express yourself. It affects your moods; you become of two minds. You go from laughter to tears, and from wanting to fight to wanting to die.
If you don’t try to make them different, the days are obviously always going to be the same
This is my third conviction, and I have spent half of my life here. The first term failed to integrate me into society; on the contrary, it “improved” me. I was a boy.
I went to jail at 18 and came out at 22. It was horrible to be so young and go through so many terrible things inside this place. If you don’t try to make them different, the days are obviously always going to be the same.
You need to occupy your mind, work, study, and maintain personal hygiene, as well as hygiene in your physical space… To not waste time, and in addition to the work here, I agreed to work for an institution that fights discrimination…
Thanks to Prison Insider for giving me the opportunity to express myself. Regards to fellow comrades of other nations, and regards to Prison Insider.
United States of America, Schuylkill (Pennsylvania)
I dare not look over my shoulder
The window of time, the haunting shadows of doubt, the instrument that regulates our life. Einstein made time a formula. Tesla transmuted it into a multi-congruent, multi-dimensional existence.
Prosecutors decide who forfeits time. Wardens watch, over time. When the judge’s gavel strikes, all time stops. Freezing currents of electric fear paralyze me. Doubt speaks to me, serenading me, to end time.
What do I do? Do I screen off a fraction of myself? Steadfastly staying focused on my goal of returning to the outside?
Do I turn my back on all measure of time? Birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, graduations? Memories of who I was, who I became and who I want to be?
How much time do I ignore? My gray, dark, shadowy reality haunts me. Especially when the sun shines brightest. But I dare not look over my shoulder. I dare not peek at how much time has past or wonder why my kids are now adults. Time has become my assailant. Killing and devouring my reality. I fear Time. But I have learned from time. I must kill time and devour it. If I want to beat time. If I want to survive… this time.
Time has ceased to matter because I’m still here for a while
Deprived of their liberty, prisoners are left alone with themselves when the doors are locked at the end of the afternoon. They are face to face with their past, their successes, but above all, their mistakes and their failures. When I look through the bars of my window, all I can see is a wall, with the top of a tree barely peeking over it. The fences and barbed wire stand between me and the sky.
I hear nothing and see nothing of the outside. The only noise I can hear is often the chaos of the prison, which reverberates in my head. I prefer to wear earplugs so that I can be in silence and focus on myself. Time has ceased to matter because I’m still here for a while.
Over the past six years, I noticed that wrinkles have started to appear on my face, like scars from my imprisonment and the passage of time.
In prison, the days are so similar that time seems immutable, even though I am always busy studying, working, playing chess and exercising. Today, I’m using my time in order to not waste it because I’m waiting for my release, which is still a long way off but feels tangible. Like on the outside, time is relative; it depends on what we do with it.
I find it difficult to imagine life on the outside; the outside world and freedom only exist in my memory. What will happen out there once I am free again? How am I going to find my bearings again? Where will I fit in society? Where will my friends be? Or my family?
I still have a lot of uncertainty.
What direction will I take?
How can I best spend the time life has given me?
Do I have regrets? Yes.
Do I have remorse? No, not for me!
Imagining my strife and pain through the words of case studies or clients...
His back to a handless clock, as if to ignore the unignorable, but one cannot disregard time. The attempt is futile, even juvenile. I am contemptuous.
Thickening to the backs of my fingers, all I can see is a pantomime, an over-orchestrated portrait. Sympathetic solidarity oozes from him like uncultured syrup; too rich!
As yet untampered by proper knowledge, there is a lack of true comprehension to words and frame. His design? To elicit a response from myself and others. Imagining my strife and pain through the words of case studies or clients, he is unschooled in the dismal entrapment of walls. He photographs himself before me. It is then all I see, a representation of stagnation, intransience, decay. They are the last great enemy, ensnaring and cruel. To paint upon them, to plaster their smooth frozen surfaces with brightest nostalgia is definitive madness.
A face may change, but its nature shall remain beneath. Thousands before me have stared these, my cage’s faces, and thousands shall do so after me; gazing blindly as hours blur todays, blend to weeks and are then lost inside months and years, just as all else (desires, feelings, memories, hopes, identity…) will be lost.
Hoping you are well,
Yours, most sincerely.
How ironic life is, with its passage of time. Now I am the one who is imprisoned
I remember when I was a child, once in a while, I would go to the zoo with my parents. I found it painful to see the animals confined. They were not free to move about, some seemed anxious to leave their cages, and others had a lost look about them or else seemed asleep.
How ironic life is, with its passage of time. Now I am the one who is imprisoned. It seems prison bars cause tears to flow from everyone.
I’ve spent five years engaging in conversation every night with a friend of mine named Raul. It is almost a religious rite. We think we found a possible solution to the most serious problems of humanity.
One night he asked me, “Why are you not happy being a prisoner?” What a question! I was about to respond in outrage, but then I restrained myself and considered it a valid opportunity to give him a good answer. I remembered that my friend Raul doesn’t have a wife or children to think about, so because of that, he only thinks of himself.
Then I answered, “No one is happy being a prisoner, much less myself.”
Actually, and I’m not lying. As much as they try, prisons cannot be made appealing. It’s the same for hospitals. They are places that stink of filth and where diseases breed.
All of us have guilt that consumes us, we carry failed illusions, shattered hopes, lives lost in time…
Prisons are cemeteries for the living, and the almost dead.
Time moves like quicksand: the more we fight against it, the more we sink in
“It is a property inseparable from time, and which in a manner constitutes its essence, that each of its parts succeeds another, and that none of them, however contiguous, can ever be co-existent.” (A Treatise of Human Nature, Hume)¶
Through the looking glass:¶
From where I stand, I do not see just a hand-less clock, but an invasive cry, a cynically vigilant eye. The folds in the window curtain are like prison bars that prompt me to look inside myself – a window to the interior, an introspective journey where time moves like quicksand: the more we fight against it, the more we sink in.
The luxury of forgetting is an illusion that we still hang on to, a survival instinct, almost animal-like. After all, aren’t we penned up in a cage? Walls, iron bars, barbed wire – yet all this is less of a trap than what we now are, what we have become, with the straitjackets we put around ourselves.
Time has little meaning, incarcerated, incapacitated in a cell that makes you claustrophobic. It can get lonely, but not for me.
From the beginning of time, I’ve been determined to survive, lost time cannot be recovered, time with loved ones are lost forever.
The strict time schedule forced on us day in and day out, doesn’t make one gain time. I like to think I’ve used the years wisely, improved myself, always looking forward to the future. New horizons await me through this solitary confinement. I can always use my ability for using time, whether the hands are there or not, time is in myself. I can use them as I wish.