Sunday, March 22, 2009

Installation: Guantanamo Bay Headline Puppets

March 19-26th in the Experimental Exhibition LAB (EEL) at 1 Spadina Crescent.

“The relationship between artist and work, model and spectator, although intimate, is never innocent” – MOMA curator Connie Butler

Complicity of an activating viewer is created in the pulling of newspaper twine and telephone cord, becoming the direct participants in lifting the headline bodies. Manipulating of the Guantanamo Bay media coverage reveals contorted bodies rising out of flat pieces of acetate, placing the viewers as the puppet-masters over the submissive bodies. The twine and cord are the transmitters of media coverage, from newpapers to online blogs and Youtube mash-ups sourced from American, Syrian, Yemen and international media sources and citizens. Yet the cords are also reminiscent of nooses, recalling America’s history with lynchings, though it has now been exported. Torture outsourcing as well as the proliferation of “Little Brother” media are two sides of globalization, unlike the rights and responsibilities constrained to actions committed within a nation’s boundaries.
To speak about Guantanamo Bay as an everyday citizen is to piece together contradictory opinions of a place known only through the media, which itself must be held suspect, be it information from a governmental source or a private filmmaker.

The five deaths at Guantanamo Bay have been equally slippery, lacking in details, firm coroner reports and claims of insufficient information for cause of death. The only material body available is the substance of the media headlines creating the body, and activated throughout the viewer’s use of media sources. The recent announcement of President Barack Obama of the closure of Gunatanamo Bay reverberates throughout the room through the multiplicity of media quoting him, picturing him, criticizing him, and engaging with the eventual demise of Guantanamo Bay overlaying the five bodies. The piecemeal information from a myriad of small narrative sources creates a body of conflicts, irregularity and insubstantiality.

Each body is held together by the plastic security constraints preferred by governmental agencies, dominating and controlling the bodies’ ability to resist and move. It is the viewers that choose to raise the bodies, revealing the headlines at the cost of inflicting apparent anguish in the body positions. The viewers can attempt to follow some form of narrative in the writings, images and film stills that Guantanamo Bay incites, but the overwhelming profusion of information as well as the discomfort in torturing, induces an atmosphere of unease and complicity.

The Experimental Exhibition Lab (EEL) is dedicated to fostering
student exhibitions in the heart of the University of Toronto's
cultural centre. Located at the historic One Spadina building, the EEL
provides a space for intellectually and artistically curious students
to cultivate, curate, and create their own exhibitions in
collaboration with graduating and graduate students.

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