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In this unprecedented collaboration, art, music, and spoken word poetry come together to share Keith LaMar’s story.

March 4, 2023–July 9, 2023

About the Exhibition

Keith LaMar is a writer, poet and activist who has spent almost 30 years in solitary confinement on death row in Ohio for a crime he says he did not commit. This story is one about how jazz, writing, and contemplation have guided him through to find self-liberation within the most difficult of circumstances. The resulting work, DIGEST, is an interactive, mixed media installation created by artist Mia Pearlman, jazz pianist and composer Albert Marquès, and LaMar.

The exhibition grows out of LaMar’s experiences and his metaphor for the prison industrial complex as a digestive system designed to consume people and break them down. In the center of the gallery hangs an enormous abstract sculpture that evokes a brick building, both crushing its contents and being crushed by invisible forces. Faceted with materials found in the carceral system like metal wire mesh, zip tie handcuffs, prison blankets, and prison uniforms, DIGEST’s sculptural skin reveals small video screens and audio speakers.

DIGEST is both a sculpture and a musical instrument, played by the motion of viewers’ bodies: As visitors enter the space and move around the work, they trigger videos of LaMar telling his story and audio of a piano composition in 5 separate tracks. As more people fill the gallery, these audio tracks come together to form a haunting, rhythmic groove. As viewers leave, the sculpture goes silent, leaving LaMar alone once again.

On November 16, 2023, the State of Ohio plans to execute Keith LaMar despite no physical evidence linking him to a crime. He continues to fight for a new trial to defend his innocence in court. Whatever happens to LaMar, DIGEST will continue to create awareness of his case and the plight of so many trapped in his situation.

DIGEST is organized by the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University as part of the Artist Project Series and curated by Senior Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs Steven L. Bridges, with assistance from Curatorial Assistant Dalina A. Perdomo Álvarez. Support for this series is provided by the MSU Federal Credit Union. 

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