Midt i downtown New York ligger der en gammel brandstation. Om dagen er den et mødested for aktivisterne i Bring Down the Walls, om aftenen er den en house-klub. Dørene står åbne for alle i den lille brandstation, hvis formål er at opbygge et fællesskab for tidligere indsatte i USAs overfyldte og stadig mere industrialiserede fængsler, som har en massiv overvægt af ikke-hvide fanger. Kunstneren Phil Collins undersøger det frigørende politiske potentiale i dansegulvet og i den åbne mikrofon, hvor gæsterne deler egne oplevelser med hinanden. Det participatoriske projekt giver nyt håb, mens house-musikken pumper.
Over the last four decades, the prison population in the US has soared to more than 2 million. Through privatisation and disproportionate targeting of people of colour, the marginalised and the poor, the justice system has been used as a tool of oppression and the source of corporate profit. Today, ‘the land of the free’ is the world’s biggest jailer. Coinciding with the escalation of mass incarceration in the 1980s, house music emerged from Black, Latinx and queer communities embattled by the criminal and law enforcement policies.
Bring Down The Walls looks at the US prison industrial complex through the lens of house music and nightlife. The connection comes from the years in which Phil Collins worked with men incarcerated at Sing Sing, a maximum-security prison in upstate New York. After access was revoked, Collins recorded a compilation of classic house tracks with vocalists who have formerly been incarcerated, and set up a communal space in the heart of Manhattan’s court district dedicated to the struggle for social justice and prison abolition. During the day, discussions were led by people who have been directly impacted by the prison system. At night, it transformed into a dance party hosted by DJs, performers and collectives from New York’s vibrant club scene. Combining these strands, Bring Down The Walls proposes the dance floor as a space of personal and collective liberation, and new ways in which we could come together as a society.