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Kristian Vistrup Madsen

MA work

Doing Time

The primary rule of prison correspondence is this: do not promise anything you can’t keep. Yet there is the fact that the promise is mine to define to begin with; there is the impossibility of reconciliation and the inevitability of betrayal. For a year I have been corresponding with Michael, a stranger in a California prison. In the first letter I received from him each component of his story runs into the next like gunfire, a line of bullets with no punctuation, just the space of the fraction of a second. The effect was me sitting there at the other end with my mouth open; the expectation of surprise and its fulfilment. We’re so different, this is crazy. But that is the point, right, so we carry on. 

"Doing Time is a magnificent and perfectly poised text based on the correspondence of the author with a Californian prisoner. From this ‘simple’ fact, extended reflections follow on the nature of difference, relationality, temporality, rehabilitation, hierarchies, injustices, privacy, ethics and erotics. The writing is self-assured, engaging and moves smoothly between personal reflection, theoretical, literary and cultural observation, intriguing images and genuinely explanatory material regarding Michael’s situation in prison in the broader context of mental health, violence and sexuality in the US carceral system. It is a serious and mature piece of poetic/prose writing that is beautifully structured and willing to face up to the ambiguities and asymmetries that such a project necessarily entails. One of its biggest strengths is the way in which complex and abstract ideas are given material focus and content without one side reducing or being reducible to the other… a highly skilful, authentic, well-researched and genuinely moving piece of writing that evidences great care and thought throughout."

– Nina Power. 


  • MA Degree


    School of Humanities


    MA Critical Writing in Art & Design, 2016

  • Writing about the possibility/conditions for the political, about the limits of deconstruction, about facts (to try and know something) and failure (starting from there), and living with identity and beyond it.  
  • Degrees

  • BA English, Goldsmiths, University of London, 2014.
  • Awards

  • Winifred Hyde Prize for highest mark in my graduating year, Goldsmiths, 2014. ; Best Final Major Project, Critical Writing in Art & Design, Royal College of Art, 2016.
  • Publications

  • Arc 19, Royal College of Art, 2015.