Mirror/Echo/Tilt is a video, performance, and pedagogical project created by artists Melanie Crean (b. 1968, Waterbury, CT), Shaun Leonardo (b. 1979, Queens, NY), and Sable Elyse Smith (b. 1986, Los Angeles, CA) in collaboration with individuals affected by the justice system. Exploring choreographies imposed on the body by the carceral state, the project is developed through intensive artist-run workshops with participants and considers the gestures and language used to define experiences of arrest and incarceration. The exhibition will premiere a multichannel video installation filmed largely in empty decommissioned prisons and courthouses and other psychically charged architectural spaces in New York City. Complicating the relationship between fiction and reality, Mirror/Echo/Tilt alludes to the magical realism and metafiction of its title’s inspiration, Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes’s famous novel from the early seventeenth century. The work also takes the form of a living curriculum practiced with court-involved youth, formerly incarcerated adults, and individuals otherwise vulnerable to the justice system. The curriculum focuses on undoing the language around culturally embedded conceptions of criminality and will serve as an open resource that lives beyond the artists and the exhibition.

The project culminates in a residency at The New Museum from June - September 2019. The exhibition includes private workshops for community partners, public forums and readings, and a resource room with visions for justice contributed by visitors and facilitated by the Teen Apprentice Program.

Mirror/Echo/Tilt is the collaborative project of artists Melanie Crean, Shaun Leonardo, and Sable Elyse Smith:

Melanie Crean (b. 1968, Waterbury CT) is an artist, educator, and filmmaker. Her research-based practice focuses on how new forms of narrative and interaction can be used to equitably shift relationships of power, and mitigate the impact that social systems of control have on people and their surrounding environment. She was Research Artist at Recess Assembly, New York in 2017. Her current work includes No Such Place as America, supported by A Blade of Grass and created in collaboration with young equestrians from from Ebony Horsewomen and local law enforcement in Hartford, CT; as well as a commission with Artspace and Yale University archives, commenting on the current state of the criminal justice system in the US, fifty years after the trials of the New Haven 9. Crean is an Associate Professor of Media and Technology at Parsons School of Design.

Shaun Leonardo (b. 1979, Queens, NY) is a multidisciplinary artist whose work negotiates societal expectations of manhood, namely definitions surrounding black and brown masculinities, along with their notions of achievement, collective identity, and the experience of failure. His performance practice is participatory in nature and invested in a process of embodiment, promoting the political potential of attention and discomfort as a means to disrupt meaning and shift perspective. Leonardo is a Brooklyn-based artist from Queens, New York City. His work has recently been presented at the Guggenheim Museum (2018); the High Line (2017), Recess Assembly (2017), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (2015), Brooklyn Museum, New York (2014–2015); and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2014–2015), Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Houston (2013, 2018). He is currently Visiting Assistant Professor, Critic at Large at Pratt Institute.

Sable Elyse Smith (b. 1986, Los Angeles, CA) is an interdisciplinary artist, writer, and educator based in New York and Richmond, Virginia. Using video, sculpture, photography, and text, she points to the carceral, the personal, the political, and the quotidian to speak about a violence that is largely unseen, and potentially imperceptible. Her work has been presented at the High Line, New York (2018–2019); BAM, New York (2018); Atlanta Contemporary (2018); New Museum, New York (2017–2018); The Studio Museum in Harlem (2017–2018); Recess Assembly, New York (2017); MoMA P.S.1 (2016); Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and Artist Television Access, San Francisco (2013); Birkbeck Cinema in collaboration with the Serpentine Galleries, London (2016); and the Queens Museum (2017–2018). She is currently Assistant Professor of Sculpture and Extended Media at the University of Richmond.


Participant list:

The Point:
Sandy De Jesus
Jeffrey Espinosa
Rita Jones
DeVante Lewis
Americano Manderson
William Marshall
Ashanti Meade
Gary Reese
Brian Rodriguez
Ivan Santiago

Mario (Different) Ortiz
Ezette Edouard
Roslyn Svendsen
Paul Stallings
Carolyn Williams
span style="font-weight: 400;">Joshua (Smiley) Hodge
Alberto Cabassa
Clemese Jack
Casandra Tucker
Franklin De La Cruz
David Smith
Evelyn Thompson

Kerry Carrier
James (Saint) Forza
Carlos (Romeo) Gonzales
Matthew Rodriguez



Adam Gundersheimer: cinematography
Joanne Petit-Frere: mask design


Funding Credit:

Creative Capital
Franklin Furnace
Parsons School of Design


Thank Yous:

Allison Weisberg, Founder & Executive Director, Recess & the entire Assembly team
Sarah Workneh, Co-Director, Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture
The Point, CDC, Bronx
The Fortune Society
The Osborne Association
Brooklyn Justice Initiatives & Center for Court Innovation
No Longer Empty
Ilk Yasha


Essential Bibliography:

Are Prisons Obsolete?
by Angela Y.Davis

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
by Alexander, Michelle

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (2015-09-27)
by Ralph Ellison

The Sellout: A Novel
by Paul Beatty

Don Quixote
by Miguel De Cervantes and Edith Grossman

Don Quixote de La Mancha, Part II (Avellaneda)
by Alonso Fernandez de Avellaneda

Until We Reckon: Violence, Mass Incarceration, and a Road to Repair
by Danielle Sered

Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison
by Michel Foucault

The Hero’s Journey
by Joseph Campbell

The Wire (edit) | Michael Lee

The Notorious B.I.G. - Juicy (Music Video)

The Hate You Give - Khalil's death scene

May of 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visit to Bowdoin College

The Body Keeps the Score
by Bessel Van Der Kolk

Forensic Architecture: Violence at the Threshold of Detectability
by Eyal Weizman