Donovan’s “Appearances”: An Unofficial Slideshow

This is basically a video/slideshow that is a product of my visit to Ushuaia prison/museum in Patagonia last January. The prison hasn’t actually been in use in several decades; in fact, it has been turned into a museum by Chilean authorities. The building was basically designed as a panopticon, with five prison blocks radiating out from a central point, the idea being that you could keep all the prisoners under close surveillance from a single point. One of the blocks (included in the slideshow) has basically been preserved in its original state, although the cells are of course empty. Another block has been turned into a kind of prison museum, with each cell having an installation recounting a different aspect of the prison’s history or prison life. Another has art installations related to prison life, while another is a maritime museum, and a final one is a museum displaying the work of local artists, work that often focused on the heritage of the local indigenous peoples. I was and am quite entranced by the idea of turning a place of punishment, control, and incarceration into one of aesthetic pleasure, self-expression, and artistic freedom. It suggests the potential for a change for the better in both places and people, although I doubt it will be catching on in a big way any time soon. Anyway, I set all this in the context of Donovan’s lovely song, “Appearances,” from his Cosmic Wheels album. At least in my interpretation the song invites us to look beyond superficial differences and obstacles and towards the creation of a better, more just, and more beautiful tomorrow. In any event, I hope you like it, or at least listen to Donovan’s lovely song.