This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001

10Jan/13

EDMUND CLARK — GUANTANAMO: IF THE LIGHT GOES OUT

Edmund Clark, “Camps I — Isolation Unit in Camp 1,” chromogenic colour print, 2009 (© 2009 by Edmund Clark)

Flowers Gallery
529 West 20th St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves.
Through January 12, free
212-439-1700
www.flowersgallery.com
www.edmundclark.com

The act of organized torture — especially what went on at Guantanamo, as depicted in news accounts and such documentaries as Michael Winterbottom’s The Road to Guantanamo — is meant to disorient, dislocate, disillusion, and dehumanize its victims. Award-winning British photographer Edmund Clark turns the tables in intriguing ways in “Guantanamo: If the Light Goes Out,” which continues through January 12 at Flowers gallery in Chelsea. Clark seeks to rehumanize everyone on Guantanamo by taking photos that include no people, refusing to give a public face to the men and women who work there and those who were tortured there. Instead, he focuses on three aspects of home: the naval base where the military and their families live, the prison camp itself, and the houses and apartments (primarily in the UK and Asia) where former detainees moved after being released. Clark does not arrange the photos geographically, which disorients viewers, who can’t quite be exactly sure what they’re looking at. The photos themselves are striking, showing the bright green interior of an isolation unit, a children’s slide inside a former detainee’s new home, a three-level boxed shelf containing soldiers’ hats, a mobile force-feeding chair, and the prison exercise cage. One of the most compelling shots is of a dark night with the only barely visible element being the long fence that separates the naval base from Cuba. The second part of the exhibit, “Letters to Omar,” collects xeroxes of postcards that one prisoner, Omar Deghayes, received during his years in Guantanamo; the military never allowed him to see the originals, instead making copies and then redacting much of the text. Finally, an audiovisual slideshow combines images of those postcards with an audio track melding a man describing how he was tortured with a woman reading the official camp procedures. “When you are suspended by a rope you can recover but every time I see a rope I remember. If the light goes out unexpectedly in a room, I am back in my cell,” says Binyam Mohamed, aka Prisoner #1458, whose quote lends the exhibition and accompanying book — named Best Photographic Book at the 2011 New York Photo Awards — their title. “Guantanamo: If the Light Goes Out” indeed sheds new light on a dark moment in U.S. history.

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