Incubator Project | The Section of Disapproved Books

Daniel McCarthy Clifford, an artist in residence in the Target Studio for Creative Collaboration this fall, collaborated with Betsy Friesen, the director of data management and access at the University of Minnesota Libraries and Connie Lenz, the associate director for research services and collection development at the Law Library. Together they compiled The Section of Disapproved Books, housed in the Target Studio, that includes the titles in the library catalogue that are banned in U.S. incarceration facilities.

McCarthy Clifford is interested in the way his art and his personal experience of incarceration can be combined with academic research to better highlight the U.S. prison system with the goal of changing its practices. This project will be accompanied by a program of readings, discussions, and workshops organized with the library, faculty, and nonprofit organizations We Are All Criminals and Poetry Asylum. Audiences heard from McCarthy Clifford and his collaborators on this project on November 14, 2018.

Read McCarthy Clifford’s reflection on his process creating The Section of Disapproved Books and about exciting next steps for the project. To view the full spreadsheet of Disapproved Titles from Incarceration Facilities, visit The spreadsheet was assembled by Target Studio Assistant Ray Barney, whose reflection you can read here.

University of Minnesota Libraries

Law Library at the UMN Law School

WeCoLab — Led by Matt Olson of OOIEE, a group of Bachelor of Design and Architecture students founded an open practice of design to assist McCarthy Clifford in his exhibition space at WAM.


“My art focuses on American institutions. I make works which explore the dynamics, materials, and histories of institutions and disciplinary structures: prisons and schools become entry points to broader conversations about power, censorship, race, class, and masculinity.

“Research into the justice system, specifically the federal prison system and the prison-industrial complex, serves as a foundation for works that question the national narrative and the functions of America’s institutions. Using archival material, sculpture, photography, video, and installation, I reconfigure institutional signifiers and artifacts to suggest new ways of understanding social control.

“I disrupt and co-opt actual institutional channels, procedures, and spaces, engaging directly with federal agencies and institutions; the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Bureau of Prisons in particular. The trail of official paperwork and correspondence resulting from these bureaucratic interventions becomes integral to the work as a documentation of its impacting non-art systems.”



Emily Baxter of the social justice nonprofit We Are All Criminals held a temporary office in the Target Studio for Creative Collaboration at the Weisman Art Museum. Through shared stories of those who committed or were accused of committing crimes, those who got away with them, and those who have been directly affected by the criminal justice system, We Are All Criminals seeks to challenge society’s perceptions of what it means to be “criminal” and erase the barriers that separate us.




Back to Incubator Program>>

Image: The Section of Disapproved Books, at the Minneapolis Central Library during Northern Spark 2018.