2016 The New War Photographers: Artefacts of Extraordinary Rendition
Tuesday 7 June 2016, 7:00 PM
Frontline Club, 13 Norfolk Pl, London, W2 1QJ
PARC are delighted to partner with The Frontline Club, for a new series of events examining how today’s photographers are finding new strategies to bring to light important information in the public interest – information that governments would rather remained secret. Working with lawyers, human rights specialists – and becoming rigorous investigators in their own rights – these new war photographers reveal the invisible battlefields that have been multiplying the world over since 9/11.
For this first event of the series we welcome photographer Edmund Clark and counterterrorism investigator Crofton Black, in conversation with Max Houghton, who have assembled photographs and documents that confront the nature of contemporary warfare and the invisible mechanisms of state control.
Since George W. Bush’s 2001 declaration of the “war on terror” until 2008, more than one hundred people disappeared into a network of secret prisons organised by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. These so-called “high value detainees” were transferred across the globe on contracted business jets, without legal process – otherwise known as extraordinary renditions. Their movements were never made public. Some were sent to Guantanamo Bay or released; others remain unaccounted for.
In a new volume of work, Negative Publicity: Artefacts of Extraordinary Rendition, Clark and Black have recreated the network that links CIA ‘black sites’ – travelling worldwide to photograph former detention sites, prisoners’ homes and government locations; and assembling a paper trail that exposes the weak points of this unlawful system hidden in plain sight.
This event will be moderated by Max Houghton, senior lecturer in photography at London College of Communication, University of the Arts London. She previously ran the documentary photography MA at the University of Westminster, and edited the photography biannual 8 magazine for six years. She writes regularly on the arts for publications including FOAM, Photoworks, 1000 Words and The Daily Telegraph.
Crofton Black has spent over six years carrying out in-depth international investigations into counterterrorism tactics on behalf of the human rights group Reprieve, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, and other organisations. He has a doctorate of philosophy from the University of London on the topic of early modern hermeneutics and was formerly an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at the Freie Universität Berlin.
Edmund Clark is an award-winning photographer whose work links history, politics and representation. His series Guantanamo: If the Light Goes Out (2010), Letters to Omar (2010) and Control Order House (2012) engage with state censorship to explore hidden experiences and spaces of control and incarceration in the global “war on terror.” More recently, with The Mountains of Majeed (2014) he reflects on the end of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. He has received worldwide recognition for his work, including the Royal Photographic Society Hood Medal for outstanding photography for public service and the British Journal of Photography International Photography Award. He teaches at the University of the Arts, London. His work is the subject of a major solo exhibition, ‘Edmund Clark: War of Terror’, at the Imperial War Museum from 28 July 2016 to 28 August 2017.
For the second event of the series, we will be joined by critically-acclaimed artist David Birkin, in conversation with Max Houghton, who uses his work to examine elements of censorship and spectacle in the so-called War on Terror. He has explored subjects ranging from the covert deployment of drones in Pakinson and Yemen, to the Bush-era ban on photographing flag-draped coffins. We will be hearing from Birkin on his recent work that engages with invisible warfare – including ‘The Shadow of a Doubt’, his public performance involving a plane circling the Statue of Liberty’s torch; and ‘The Evidence of Absence’, in which he launched a replica of a military surveillance blimp currently flying over Kabul above a London residential neighbourhood.
David Birkin is a British-born artist based in New York. He studied anthropology at Oxford University and fine art at the Slade, and was a fellow on the Independent Study Program at the Whitney Museum of American Art. His past projects have included a collaboration with the courtroom sketch artist at Guantanamo, a visual rendering of identification numbers from the Iraqi civilian casualty database, and skywriting an extract of CIA legalese above Manhattan. He has exhibited internationally, most recently at The Mosaic Rooms in London, FotoFest in Houston, and the Whitney ISP in New York, and has written for publications including Creative Time Reports, Cabinet Magazine, Ibraaz and the Harvard Advocate.