VCBC floating detention facility: Christening at DNL Smart Prisons

VCBC floating detention facility: Christening at DNL Smart Prisons

Sean Vegezzi, “VCBC: Christening”, 2023

The Vernon C. Bain Center (VCBC) is an 800-bed, 191-meter floating detention facility moored in the East River within the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx. It functions as an auxiliary of the Rikers Island jail complex and is the primary facility for the criminal court intake in the Bronx.

By centering original research on Avondale Shipyards (the now-defunct Louisiana-based shipbuilder contracted to build the facility) and its network of former employees and contractors, NY-based artist Sean Vegezzi located documentation of the facility, as well as financial records and correspondences that have never been assembled nor made public. These materials give form to the facility’s undefined nature and create unprecedented accountability for its existence, which has historically been deliberately obscured. This is true of VCBC’s geographical location, as well as in the many elisions, distortions, and linguistic errors that have emerged from its literal wake throughout various waterways – spaces which at once function in service of, and in opposition to, empires, their colonial projects, and conceptions of security and law (Astrida, Neimanis. Water as a Planetary Archive of Feeling: Queer Ecologies and Reparative Readings for the Anthropocene, 2016).

Vegezzi’s investigation is presented at the 2023 SMART PRISONS conference in a panel through a new artistic work commissioned by the Disruption Network Lab, the short film VCBC: Christening, featuring the only known surviving video documentation of the vessel’s christening ceremony in 1991.

Vegezzi originally intended to present an investigation on the security technologies utilized within the facility and reveal how detainees are actively monitored throughout the space. However, the New York City Department of Correction has stalled Vegezzi’s legal inquiries into these surveillance practices. At the Disruption Network Lab, Vegezzi has pursued alternative investigative pathways to provide the public with more information on VCBC’s global histories and stakeholders. He plans to investigate the security technologies further as soon as, and if their inquiries are adequately answered.

Part of Disruption Network Lab’s conference Smart Prisons.

Berlin (DE)
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