Exhibition Review: Edmund Clark - The Day the Music Died
Review by: Billy Anania
A new exhibition at the International Center of Photography addresses how the United States responds to international terror threats. The Day the Music Died features photos, videos and installations from Edmund Clark’s extensive research at Guantanamo Bay.
For more than a decade, the British photographer has documented how the U.S. government handles foreign relations in the War on Terror. The show’s title comes from “American Pie” by Don McLean, a beloved song from Clark’s childhood and a method of torture used by the U.S. government in its military prisons.
Clark’s photos of empty interrogation rooms and penitentiary chambers allude to an absence of humanity amidst architectural complexity. Fortified metal structures meant to suppress and control war criminals become scenes of quiet tension. Also included in the exhibition are photos of empty rooms belonging to former Gitmo detainees, decorated according to personal taste but conspicuously missing their occupants.
Privacy is also a central theme in these works, as seen through redacted document text and censored building complexes. Clark intentionally works with corrupted files and images to show how a lack of information could subvert truth, and sometimes lead to flat-out denial.
At the center of the exhibition is Clark’s Body Politic, a large structure covered in reproductions of pages from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s Committee Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. At the front of the installation is a looped video featuring figures from the War on Terror–such as Bashar al-Assad, Osama Bin Laden, Jihadi John, Saddam Hussein and the last three American presidents.
Clark explores the dissemination of once-private information in his Negative Publicity and Vanishing Points collections. Additionally, the exhibition includes interviews, publications and audio footage that symbolize the experiences of military prisoners for the last ten years.
In much of Clark’s work is a pervasive sense of dread, exposing how government secrecy sustains long-term damage on people and history. His collaborations with media outlets and government officials reveal the integral role that photography plays in the freedom of information.
For more on the exhibition, visit www.icp.org.