Image: Rebecca Herman and Mark Schoffner, Village Green, mixed media /  ©Rebecca Herman & Mark Schoffner    ©Black & White Gallery/Project Space

Image: Rebecca Herman and Mark Schoffner, Village Green, mixed media / ©Rebecca Herman & Mark Schoffner  ©Black & White Gallery/Project Space


"It's a prison yard," said Mark Schoffner, declaring that there is a single correct reading of Black & White Gallery's outdoor project space. Running with that interpretation, Herman and Schoffner, who have been collaborating for over a decade, constructed a device in the space that built on their ongoing exploration of vernacular architecture—that is, architecture built ad hoc, without an identified designer, to meet an immediate need. The artists have counted everything from beaver dams to gallows in the vernacular category, and in Village Green they offered their reinterpretation of a village pillory or stockade, a form of pre-19th-century punishment, in which townspeople found to have committed crimes were shacked, put on display, and subjected to public ridicule. "It’s an architecture that uses whatever material is available to meet a perceived social necessity," said Herman of the structures. "The people who made these were not architects," added Schoffner. "They were clergymen, woodworkers, and regular people who made these truly scary things." The artists' version, however, was an eight-sided, rather than individual, construction, where offenders stood facing one another. Instead of shackles, only the judging gazes of fellow prisoners kept people from escaping. The appropriately panoptic design updated the mechanism for an era of extreme visibility, where townspeople are both voyeurs and exhibitionists, and social regulation, more often than not, plays out in the full light of Myspace. Adding to the atmosphere, two camouflaged hunting blinds stood in either corner, allowing uninvolved parties to discreetly take in the spectacle. The installation accompanied Cultivation, an exhibition of Herman and Schoffner's work in the main gallery, but rather than supplementing the indoor component, the menacing structure drew all the attention back into the prison yard.