Buried Alive

Elyse Blennerhassett

Based on years of phone calls with two men who were sentenced to juvenile life without parole 30 years ago, “Buried Alive” examines the relationship between place, memory, and desire within the US prison landscape, through two short films “Never Enough Time” and “Spooncake" and the art and writings of incarcerated men. 


This installation was a part of HEAR & NOW: An Interactive Oral History Exhibit, showcasing multimedia projects and stories recorded by the 2017 cohort of Columbia University’s Oral History MA program. 


The United States is the only country in the world to sentence youth to life in prison without parole. It is called a "natural life" sentence. When you step into this exhibit, you will meet two men who, since their youth, have spent more than half their lives in prison. This moment is about belonging — collectively together, in this exhibition space, and challenging the mental and physical walls that legitimize the alterity built into the American landscape.

Elyse Blennerhassett is an interdisciplinary artist and freelance audio producer for radio, film, and space. She is currently exploring the sound of erasure by focusing on the voices of people who have been forcibly displaced from their communities, neighborhoods, and homes, and then documenting the art they create in response to feelings of alterity. To do so, Elyse records the sounds and the stories that take place within accidental and spontaneous communities, including prisons. Drawing from first person narratives, field recordings, and archival tape, Elyse seeks to create immersive works that cultivate compassion across disparate communities and landscapes.