Botero exhibition about Abu Ghraib torture in Washington, D.C, USA

This is a video about Fernando Botero’s Abu Ghraib works.

From The Star in Canada:

Art and Abu Ghraib

Nov 24, 2007 04:30 AM

Tim Harper
Washington Bureau

The man doing the waterboarding is a strangely disengaged torturer, representing either cool professionalism or emotionless evil.

The abusers are portrayed as army boots on the back of the abused, latex gloves on a naked body.

They are represented by a stream of urine that starts off canvas or invisible hands holding snarling dogs with their teeth bared.

The abused are hooded or blindfolded, naked or in women’s underwear, bloody, anguished, their bodies bloated and overdrawn in almost iconic Christian poses.

This is the work of 75-year-old Colombian artist Fernando Botero, who has taken oils, charcoal, watercolours and his anger at the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and produced a series of 79 works that evoke the brutality and inhumanity of the torture that was revealed to the world in 2004.

The works first shocked audiences in Europe.

Now they are hanging in a museum in the U.S. capital, a handful of subway stops from the White House.

A visit to the exhibit is a punch to the stomach.

“I had to go directly to the bathroom. I was feeling really dizzy,” said Francisco Tardio, the cultural manager at the Spanish embassy here.

The American University Museum is the first American museum to display the entire Abu Ghraib collection, although some of Botero‘s works had been displayed in galleries in California and New York.

American University is not trying to make a political statement so much as trying to promote discussion of a watershed moment in recent American history, says museum director Jack Rasmussen.

The collection is receiving worldwide attention and swelling museum attendance fivefold.

Last Sunday, 380 people solemnly strode through an exhibit of one of the darkest moments in American history. That may not sound like many, but previous exhibits would have drawn 75 on a good Sunday.

“This is the belly of the beast,” Rasmussen says. “This is the city in which such an exhibition could have the greatest impact.

“It is very disturbing, and this is something that we shouldn’t let slide. But we’re not trying to bash George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.”

Then he adds with a wry smile: “They are our neighbours, after all.”

Botero, who lives in Paris, attended a gala opening here earlier this month, saying he was moved to create his stark renderings because of his distress that a country he admired was implicated in such debasing torture.

The discordance between American ideals and the torture scandal, publicized around the world with graphic photos, filled him with “frustration and rage.”

The visitor is assaulted as soon as he or she enters the Botero wing with the huge oil on canvas rendering of waterboarding, a practice in which the victim is strapped to a wooden board, his mouth and windpipe covered by cloth or cellophane and water poured on his face to simulate drowning.

The practice has been deemed torture since it was first used in the Spanish Inquisition, but it has allegedly been used by CIA interrogators on high-level Al Qaeda operatives in secret detention centres.

Its use is still a subject of debate in this country and Attorney General Michael Mukasey’s refusal to clearly pledge to end the practice nearly derailed his recent confirmation to the post.

Another oil on canvas shows a dog sinking its teeth into the leg of a detainee and a watercolour shows a headless American urinating on two shackled prisoners.

Another shows one blindfolded detainee being forced to simulate oral sex on another by an unseen American and a number of tableaux portray the detainees dressed in pink bra and panties, a favourite instrument of humiliation by the American jailers.

One depicts a broken broomstick protruding from a prisoner’s anus.

Eleven soldiers were convicted of crimes for their roles in the torture, but no officer was ever convicted of criminal wrongdoing.

The stiffest sentence was handed to Specialist Charles Graner, who received 10 years behind bars.

Specialist Lynndie England, mother of Graner’s child, received three years but is now out of prison and back home in West Virginia.

The university said it was receiving about 100 expressions of praise from visitors for every complaint, but it is sparking a strange combination of revulsion and admiration.

“We have to face what this country has done,” said Kate Ratiner of Silver Spring, Md.

Most say they find Botero’s paintings more disturbing than the actual images, which they all saw in media accounts at the time.

“It’s disturbing,” said Sarah Makarechi, an American University student. “This shows the blatant disregard for people’s humanity. It’s like their humanness was just taken away from them.”

“The End of America”: Feminist Social Critic Naomi Wolf Warns U.S. in Slow Descent into Fascism: here.

7 thoughts on “Botero exhibition about Abu Ghraib torture in Washington, D.C, USA

  1. Does anyone know where the Botero collection on Abu Ghraib is at this moment (April 2009)? I only find postings from 2007. Is it at Berkley now? If anyone knows and can email me the info/link, I’d appreciate it!


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