To look at the website, it's almost as if the Guantanamo Bay Museum of Art and History is real. There's a tab showcasing the museum's current exhibitions, hours of operation and even a link to help potential visitors plan trips to Cuba. The museum has a Facebook page and Twitter profile.
Sadly, the museum is most assuredly not real. It's an exhibition that works around the fictional narrative that the infamous detention center was permanently closed in 2012 and turned into a museum in order to remember the human rights abuses that occurred there. San Francisco-based artist Ian Alan Paul, who curated and coordinated the exhibition, says it takes place in a "speculative present" and features work by him and a rotating cast of artists.
"I felt it was something that really spoke to the varying entanglements that Gitmo has had, not only historically, but currently," says UC San Diego professor Ricardo Dominguez, who commissioned the exhibition to come to the gallery@Calit2 space inside UCSD's Atkinson Hall. "It has such a deeply ingrained space in American foreign policy and the military's distribution of power. We forget that Guantanamo has been with us for over 100 years."
The exhibition has had dozens of participating artists and a few iterations since first debuting in 2012, but Dominguez says there will be new "gestures" that are exclusive to the exhibition at UCSD.
"What the artists do is not only present to the audience the present moment, but also begin to articulate this kind of long archive of what some might call 'black site cultures,'" says Dominguez, citing artist Adam Harms' "Performing the Torture Playlist" piece in which he sings, karaoke style, the songs that were played at extremely loud volumes to keep Gitmo detainees awake and restless. "Here you have something that someone would listen to in their car and even feel nostalgic about, but it was also a crucial way to rip apart the psyche, the body and the resistance of an individual and to make them less human."
The exhibition also features work from Jon Kuzmich, Jenny Odell, Carling McManus, Jen Susman and Fiamma Montezemolo. It opens Thursday, Jan. 14, from 5 to 7 p.m. and will be on display through March 11.