Samdani Art Foundation
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BLACK SITES I THE SEEN UNSEEN 2015-2016

 
 

The debut presentation of The Seen Unseen at the Dhaka Art Summit includes four parts

February 5-8, 2016  |  MARIAM GHANI AND CHITRA GANESH  |  Dhaka Art Summit

 
 
Mariam Ghani and Chitra Ganesh, Black Sites I: The Seen Unseen, 2015-16. Commissioned and produced by Creative Time Reports, the Juncture Initiative at Yale Law School and Samdani Art Foundation for the Dhaka Art Summit 2016.  Courtesy of the artists, Creative Time Reports, the Juncture Initiative at Yale Law School, Dhaka Art Summit and Samdani Art Foundation. Photo credit: Jenni Carter

Index of the Disappeared is a collaboration between Chitra Ganesh and Mariam Ghani, ongoing since 2004. The Index is both a physical archive of the human costs of post-9/11 US policies, understood as a series of disappearances – detentions, deportations, renditions, redactions and a platform for public dialogue around related issues. The Index also produces visual and poetic interventions that circulate fragments of the archive into the wider world.

The Index’s current research, supported by Creative Time Reports and the Juncture initiative at Yale Law School, is a legal, visual, and historical inquiry into the afterlives of former black site prisons. The term “black site” is currently understood to refer to a secret prison operated by the CIA as part of their extrajudicial rendition, interrogation, and torture program, active between 2001 and 2009. However, any place that has been temporarily made invisible by (tacit or explicit) agreement to not see something that is clearly there can also be understood as a black site. Black Sites I: The Seen Unseen (2015-16), the first phase of the Index’s research into this phenomenon, is based on field research in Afghanistan into several types of black sites. The debut presentation of The Seen Unseen at the Dhaka Art Summit includes four parts: a series of watercolour portraits based on some of the most well-known witnesses of the black sites; a series of photographs pairing images of sites in Afghanistan with redaction* patterns from Index archive documents about events that took place in those places; a video exploring the circumlocutions through which information that which is widely known remains officially denied; and a neon sign that pairs a phrase from the description of the first prisoner waterboarded by the CIA with the Bangla idiom “covering a fish with greens,” signifying an attempt to cover up something that everyone already knows.