In December 2007 Marco Evaristti travelled to Huntsville in order to visit prisoner number 000800, Gene Hathorn, on Death Row in the prison. The purpose of this was to meet an actual person who had been sentenced to death because he had committed a murder. Marco Evaristti was interested in the ethical paradox that lay in the fact that the fundamental human right of life was simultaneously both defended and violated in the USA in this way.
The meeting with prisoner 000800 Gene Hathorn came as a shock to Evaristti, who saw that the subject Gene Hathorn was being treated as an object in the prison system – a number in a sequence. Even before the meeting with Gene Hathorn, Evaristti had been on a tour of the cemetery for prisoners from Death Row, where one crucifix after another indicated the prisoner number (not the person) who was buried there.
Gene Hathorn was a large man, 120 kg with chalk-white skin from being imprisoned, no eyebrows, green eyes and bluish lips. He had been on death row for 24 years and in these 24 years the time had always felt like “five to twelve” – thus the title of the work. During his time in prison Gene Hathorn had developed as a writer. Evaristti and he agreed that Evaristti would produce a project where Kenneth Thordal would compose music to his poems and Sara Koppel would produce an animated filed based on his drawings.
Gene Hathorn and Marco Evaristti agreed that when the sentence had been carried out his body would be bequeathed to Marco Evaristti. Evaristti would then convert his body into fish feed, which would form part of an installation featuring an aquarium and where visitors to the museum would be invited to feed the fish. However, a few years later Gene Hathorn’s sentence was reversed and he was sentenced to double life imprisonment and he has now been transferred to a normal prison.