Rendered: Art, Wrongful Imprisonment, and Guantánamo
Rendered: Art, Wrongful Imprisonment, and Guantánamo
June 28, 2018 @ 6 PM
Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Gitmo detainee and memoirist (Skyping in from Mauritania)
Emily Abendroth, co-founder of the Lifelines Project and How We Are Free traveling exhibition
Cristi A. Charpentier, Federal Defender
Moderated by Nicole Fleetwood
In 2002, the U.S. opened the first “War on Terror” prison at the United States Naval Station in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba (known as “Gitmo” after its military call letters, GTMO). Conceptual documentary artist and former civil rights lawyer Debi Cornwall’s exhibition locates the familiar in this state of exception, marrying empathy and dark humor with systemic critique. The solo exhibition, Welcome to Camp America: Inside Guantánamo Bay, has been shown in Switzerland, South Korea, and China. The Steven Kasher Gallery hosted the U.S. debut in 2017, and the exhibition has been awarded the inaugural Fotofest Charles Jing Fellowship, a juried prize. Her book of the same title, published by Radius, was nominated for a 2018 ICP Infinity Award, shortlisted for the 2017 Paris Photo-Aperture First PhotoBook Award and the 2017 Les Rencontres de la Photographie d’Arles Photo-Text Book Award, and named among the year’s 10 best photo books by the New York Times Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, Mother Jones, 1000 Words Magazine, and others.
This exhibition investigates the human experience of Gitmo for both prisoners and guards, through their residential and leisure spaces (Gitmo at Home, Gitmo at Play series), and gift-shop souvenirs (Gitmo on Sale series). In the 16 years since its prisons opened, Gitmo has housed 780 “detainees.” The vast majority have been cleared and released, returning home or transferred to third countries. In the Beyond Gitmo series, Cornwall collaborates with 14 former prisoners in nine countries, from Albania to Qatar, plus a former guard, to make environmental portraits replicating, in the free world, the military’s “no faces” rule.
Welcome to Camp America: Inside Guantánamo Bay
June 14 – August 25, 2018
Debi Cornwall is a conceptual documentary artist who returned to visual expression in 2014 after a 12-year career as a civil rights lawyer. Her work examines American power and identity in the post-9/11 era through photographs, archives, text, and sound.
Mohamedou Ould Slahi was born in a small town in Mauritania in 1970. He won a scholarship to attend college in Germany and worked there for several years as an engineer. He returned to Mauritania in 2000. The following year, at the behest of the United States, he was detained by Mauritanian authorities and rendered to a prison in Jordan; later he was rendered again, first to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, and finally, on August 5, 2002, to the U.S. prison Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he was subjected to severe torture. In 2010, a federal judge ordered him immediately released, but the government appealed that decision. He was cleared and released on October 16, 2015, and repatriated to his native country of Mauritania. No charges were filed against him during or after this ordeal. He is the author of Guantánamo Diary, a memoir of his experience that was serialized in Slate magazine before being published in 2015, when it became an international bestseller.
Emily Abendroth is a poet, teacher and anti-prison activist. Much of her creative work investigates state regimes of force and power, as well as individual and collective resistance strategies. She has been awarded residencies at the MacDowell Colony, the Millay Colony and the Headlands Center for the Arts, and was named a 2013 Pew Fellow in Poetry. She is an active organizer with the Coalition to Abolish Death By Incarceration (a grassroots campaign working to end life without parole sentencing in Pennsylvania) and is a co-founder of Address This! (an education and empowerment project that provides innovative, social justice correspondence courses to individuals incarcerated in Pennsylvania) and the media project LifeLines: Voices Against the Other Death Penalty. The LifeLines art exhibit How Are We Free is currently traveling across the state of Pennsylvania and will be throughout 2018-19.
Cristi A. Chapentier is a Federal Defender in the Capital Habeas Unit with the Federal Community Defender Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. She represented GTMO detainees and can also speak about the role of lawyers and the media around GTMO, as well as the evolving standards of decency and the influence of public discourse on the justice system and decision makers.
Nicole Fleetwood is a professor in the Department of American Studies at Rutgers University, New Brunswick. She is co-curator and contributing editor of “Prison Nation,” a special issue of Aperture magazine on the role of photography in documenting mass incarceration. She also recently completed a book on art and mass incarceration that will be released in 2019. Her two previous books are Troubling Vision: Performance, Visuality, and Blackness (2011) and On Racial Icons: Blackness and the Public Imagination (2015). Fleetwood is the recipient of awards and fellowships from NYPL’s Cullmen Center for Scholars and Writers, American Council of Learned Societies, Whiting Foundation, Schomburg Center for Scholars-in-Residence, the New Jersey Council for the Humanities, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.