Friday, December 11, 2009

What fresh hell is this?

And is it "art"?

Leaving aside the fact that Dorothy Parker was not addressing the issue of torture in the 21st century, the installation conceived and crafted by Ottawa artist Jenn Farr and builder Erik Windfeld should perhaps not be viewed by the faint of heart. Or by those who have first-hand knowledge of the particular hell it represents. The Canadian Press:

Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin attended the unveiling of a grim, grey cell modelled on the squalid chambers in the Syrian prison where they were whipped and beaten. El Maati, a former truck driver, spent two-and-a-half months in a similar grave-like box in the Palestine Branch of the Damascus detention centre.

He warily peered inside the sculpture, fitted with a brown blanket, plastic bottles and small plastic food dishes, and shook his head Wednesday. "It was very tough coming here," said El Maati, who brought his mother from Toronto to see the life-size rendering of the filthy, tiny place in which he lived before being sent to Egypt.

In May of 2008, a United Church minister organized the "Stop Canadian Complicity in Torture" caravan which traveled from Toronto to Ottawa. This was the only account I was able to find. El Maati accompanied the group and spoke in schools, church halls and other local venues along the way that groups such The Raging Grannies organized to educate Canadian citizens about the harm done in the name of 'national security'.

The piece was commissioned by human rights activist and author Kerry Pither, who helped fund it with prize money from an Ottawa Book Award for Dark Days about the mens' experiences.

The federal government denies responsibility for the imprisonment and torture of the men despite a commission of inquiry report that partly blamed CSIS and the RCMP. The inquiry led by former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci found last year that Canadian officials contributed to the brutalization of the men by sharing information - including unfounded accounts of extremist links - with foreign agencies.

None of the men, all of whom deny involvement in terrorism, has ever been criminally charged.

The photograph is from Metronews - that free tabloid found/handed out at public transit hubs in major Canadian cities and one of 3 news-gathering organizations who covered the public opening of this exhibit located in the former National Press Club in Ottawa. More from CTV.

1 comment:

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