Paper Prisoners

Concept Development Project of Do Hong Phuc | s3255325

Paper Prisoners is a visual series of people of all ages with various backgrounds, dressed in particular costumes and accessories depicting their specific occupations (i.e. students in school uniforms, teacher in ao dai, professor and public officials in suit), but their clothing textures are all the same: big black and white stripes – the common dressing code of prisoners. They are posing for typical mug shot, hands holding not a board of prisoner code but academic degrees and certificates.

The first story is of a child holding certificate that she has the admission to reputable, ‘gifted’ class. However, it shows that the certificate is rather bound to her as a burden rather than her willingly holding, and additionally the kid looks hauntingly depressed, exhausted or detached. The characters will start to gradually grow up, showing that they become more and more willing to hold those papers; their faces start to lose obvious negative emotions and gradually become numb, as if getting used to the situation of no escape which they are engulfed in. The numb expressions gradually drag into a smirk, as the young adults start to go for tertiary education or workplace, and once they reach a certain social status, they all wear disturbing smirks and grins. This depicts the most severe case of diploma disease as the people involved apparently threw their sanity and dignity down the drain, becoming no less than a national criminal.

The background for these images is similar to the height chart often found in mug shot, but in this case they are the monetary value chart. The ‘higher’ a person is (both in physical height/age and social status), the more money they ‘invest’ into obtaining higher academic degrees, certificates and titles. These everyday people are all jailed in the prison of diploma disease, bound by different mental and social chains. The colors used on the character’s faces, together with the expressions, are the tools to depict different mental states and attitudes of the characters towards Diploma disease (i.e. the more grown up one is, the brighter and more lively the tone becomes, growing from being discontent or depressed to accustomed and comfort). The ‘makeup’ also makes the characters look almost like clowns of the society.

  • Education
    • RMIT Vietnam