Portraits of Iraqis by Daniel Heyman
April 24, 2011 9:22 AM   Subscribe

I am an artist who by a stroke of good fortune met a brave American lawyer who represents several hundred Iraqi detainees in the US federal courts....the Iraqis I interviewed, released by the American military after many months or years of detention, were never formally accused of a crime, brought to a trial or given legal representation. Daniel Heyman paints and draws while sitting in on interviews between former Abu Ghraib detainees and their lawyer Susan Burke. Interview (including Heyman's thoughts about Errol Morris' documentary Standard Operating Procedure). Review. Another gallery. Related: The Detainee Project. Via zunguzungu.

(links to Heyman's site are to sets with multiple images, in case that's not obvious)
posted by mediareport (5 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
From the Interview:
I had an exhibition of many of these prints at The Print Center in Philadelphia, with the framed prints hung around the walls of the gallery. On the floor of the gallery, I stenciled the text from an interview with a woman detainee. This detainee was one of the few who did not allow me to listen to her interview. She had been raped at Abu Ghraib and it had been very humiliating, and she did not want a man to listen to her recounting the torture. Several months after the interview with her lawyers, after she returned to Iraq (the interview had taken place in Jordan), she was kidnapped, raped, mutilated, and murdered. I wanted to do something to memorialize this woman who had suffered so much, and asked for the family's permission to create a memorial using the text of interviews. They said yes. I stenciled the words onto the floor of the exhibition in the shape of a Muslim prayer rug. In order for visitors to see the exhibited prints, therefore, you had to walk over her testimony.

One night I gave a public talk in this exhibition. The following day I received an anonymous reaction by email. The email said it was very powerful work. Then the writer pointed out that in Muslim culture, you have to take off your shoes before going into a mosque. Then the writer said, "How do you know these Muslims are telling the truth anyway?" It got really nasty by the end of email, but there was no name attached to the email. I replied by saying, "Look, I talk to anyone about anything. But you have to tell me who you are." Turns out it the email was written by one of the American soldiers found guilty for her role in the Abu Ghraib torture case.
Weave her testimony into a rug and send it to the White House. It'll stay clean: I've heard that people frequently don't wipe their feet there.
posted by cenoxo at 11:15 AM on April 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

I like these pictures. Art as just another simple tool (along with due process) that shrinks these TERRORIST AL-QA'IDA IRAQI MONSTERS back down to human size. Mostly people caught in the wrong place at the wrong time and thrown into the mouth of a big, horrible machine.

As a society, our fat and shapeless attitude towards the whole 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, Abu Ghraib mechanism has really undermined my confidence that art ever really had any power to "humanize" the public's consciousness in a timely way.
posted by bonobothegreat at 12:20 PM on April 24, 2011

Painful and powerful. Horribile dictu.

Thank you for this post, mediareport.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:20 PM on April 24, 2011

Yet what was the stat on NPR this AM about gitmo and wikileaks ? 700-something folks detained, ~170 were "totally innocent" .. As a cold hard number, batting .750 ain't too bad ..
posted by k5.user at 7:38 AM on April 25, 2011

That's not even worth responding to.
posted by mediareport at 12:40 PM on April 25, 2011

« Older To Crank and Crank   |   A Modest Proposal Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments