1. The Knotted Line - An Introduction

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    For more info or for educational collaborations: evanbissell@gmail.com “The starting-point of critical elaboration is the consciousness of what one really is, and is ‘knowing thyself’ as a product of the historical process to date, which has deposited in you an infinity of traces, without leaving an inventory. Therefore it is imperative at the outset to compile such an inventory.” - Antonio Gramsci (From Orientalism, by Edward Said) Freedom is one of the most valued political and cultural ideas in the United States, yet the United States has consistently confined and limited the freedoms of large portions of the population. How then, in a country that incarcerates more people than any other country in the world, is freedom measured? The Knotted Line is an interactive history of this relationship of freedom and confinement in the geographic area of the United States from 1495 to 2025. Through a tactile webpage, intricate paintings of 50 watershed historical moments, and multi-media resources, The Knotted Line helps uncover the roots of our current epidemic of incarceration. The project pushes for expanded definitions of freedom through an interconnected history of reimagining and self-determination. The Knotted Line’s participatory lesson plans and interactive questions/comments evolve the historical narrative through user input – bringing personal and diverse perspectives to an issue that is often disembodied and stigmatized. As philosopher/activist Grace Lee Boggs reminds, “History is not the past. It is the stories that we tell about the past. How we tell these stories – triumphantly, self-critically, metaphysically, or dialectically – has a lot to do with whether we cut short or advance our evolution as human beings.” Evan Bissell (www.evanbissell.com) is an artist and educator in service of liberation and love. He facilitates multi-disciplinary, community-based art projects for public installation and the internet. Projects include public portraits, interactive media, participatory exhibitions and educational materials. Rooted in long-term processes of workshops and meetings, projects are structured through dialogue, storytelling, research, listening, writing, and art making. Project themes have ranged from the impact of incarceration on families to imagination as a practice of transformation for youth. Bissell has created public projects throughout the Bay Area, exhibited at Alcatraz Island, Intersection for the Arts, and SOMArts, designed the hybrid set/installation for Chinaka Hodge’s play Mirrors in Every Corner and co-founded the non-commercial gallery 2930 Telegraph with Brett Cook. Bissell teaches art and leads public projects in schools (K-12) throughout the Bay Area and is a coordinator of the Transformative Arts Track at the Allied Media Conference in Detroit. The Knotted Line is his most recent project.

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