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Where to find more repurposed objects?

1. The prison

The prison is the first interesting place to study the repurposing of objects as a need. Prisoners are prohibited many items from the outside world and it is fascinating to analyse the inventiveness that may occur into the walls of a prison as the function of some objects may change. At the moment, my unique source of information are movies and series but, although they are fictions, the directors and actors were well aware of this repurposing situation. ‘Prison Break’ (2005 – 2017) or ‘Oz’ (1997 – 2003) depict at many occasions the metamorphosis of everyday objects into weapons or tools used to escape, usually small and hidden from other inmates and guards. In ‘A man escaped’ (1956) by Robert Bresson, the protagonist uses a stolen metal spoon as a chisel to remove wooden parts of the door to see what happens outside and ultimately escape from the cell. It is even more evident in ‘The hole’ (1960) by Jacques Becker or ‘Birdman of Alcatraz’ (1962) by John Frankenheimer, where a series of objects are reused to escape in the former or to take care of birds with the limited resources available in the latter. Inventiveness do not necessarily come when the bottom of a bottle is used as a drinker for birds, which may seem an idea easy to come up with, but when people go beyond by, for instance, using a sock to warm up such bird. There is a continuum of inventiveness that can be understood by degrees, and it is often these surprising ideas that the audience expects when watching a movie or series on prison escapes. That can also happen when reading a book as when Stefan Zweig’s narrator in ‘A game of chess’ (1943) plays chess in his cell with crumbs of bread. It would be fascinating to study the prison as a real case study rather than through fictionised narratives, to then classify the type of objects repurposed and design, for example, a pedagogical handbook for prison staff.

Frames of different movies and series set in a prison.

Posted: May 8th, 2022

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