Phillip Barcio for IdeelArt: You have said that prisons are your main subject, meaning that the geometric shapes in the work are diagrammatic images of confinement. Have you ever served time in prison yourself?
Peter Halley: Well, I did spend one night in jail in North Carolina for public drunkenness.
IA: Do you intend for viewers of your work to think about actual prison life? Or do you intend for this reference to be allegorical; like a philosophical exercise?
PH: Allegory is also a means of presenting realities. I’m thinking about places and situations that are decided for you — things you can’t escape. I believe that we are imprisoned within a digital carceral.
IA: You describe the lines connecting the prisons and cells in your paintings as “conduits,” like electric and internet service lines — which offer transcendent possibilities to the inhabitants of the prisons and cells. In the paintings in your recent show at MARUANI MERCIER in Brussels, each prison does not connect to every other prison. The connections are limited. What is your thinking behind this?
PH: The connections between the prisons and conduits don’t solely address technology. The prisons are also stand-ins for people. Sometimes there is connection, and sometimes there simply isn’t. Digital communication — despite all of the possibilities it presents — is not synonymous with meaningful contact.