August 7, 2008  |  Uncategorized

Waterboarding: It’s still more fun than eating 200 Nathan’s hot dogs in 5 minutes…

As we previously reported, New York artist STEVE POWERS (aka: ESPO) has been working on a torture-themed art project for a while now and in conjunction with CREATIVE TIME as part of its national public art initiative “Democracy in America: The National Campaign,” he’s just opened the Guantanamo Bay-themed “Waterboard Thrill Ride” on Coney Island in the shadow of the legendary Cyclone roller coaster and Nathan’s hot dog stand in an empty storefront on West 12th Street. When a dollar is fed into a machine standing outside Powers’ mock jail cell installation featuring paintings by the artist inside and out, viewers can climb a short flight of steps to peer through cell bars and view an animatronic torture scene of a hooded jailer pouring water down the throat of an orange jumpsuit wearing Gitmo detainee. In creating the exhibit, Powers hopes to use the inherent spectacle of Coney Island to broaden public awareness of and spark debate about a human rights issue that has received minimal weight in the public sphere. Says John Sifton of Human Rights Watch, “In the process of waterboarding, a person believes they are being killed, and as such, it really amounts to a mock execution, which is illegal under international law.” As host of the project, Creative Time president and artistic director Anne Pasternak explains, “Humor has long been a strategy for speaking the unspeakable, and it is vital that we as a nation begin a dialogue about the implications of waterboarding. There has been a critical shift in American ideology, where previously it was unthinkable that the United States would condone the practice of torture.” Powers himself puts it more ironically: “It’s about time that this uniquely American ritual of intense water horror, a practice long reserved for New England witches and Al-Qaida brass, was made available to the people. This project will give some everyday New Yorkers the chance to experience—for a few brief, bone-chilling seconds—all the thrills of being a prisoner under interrogation at Guantanamo Bay. And the installation is fun for the whole family.” In mid-August, Powers will produce a private performance in an undisclosed location in Coney Island, wherein he and several lawyers will volunteer to be waterboarded by a trained professional. “Is waterboarding torture? No, say the administration and the courts. Yes, say human rights activists,” Powers says. “Now actual waterboard riders will reveal, in their own words, exactly what a taste of death by water feels like.” Meanwhile, the exhibit will remain on public view until late August when the show is reinstalled in the Democracy in America Convergence Center at the Park Avenue Armory from September 21 to 27. HAVE A LOOK:

Read the full NY TIMES article about the project HERE








DIRECTIONS TO THE PROJECT:? Take the D/F or RN/Q to Coney Island/Stillwell Avenue. Take a left out of the station and follow Surf Avenue 1 block. Take a right on West 12thStreet. The Waterboarding Thrill Ride will be on the right, halfway down the block.

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