Various locations, Manchester
Of the three pieces of work in this exhibition, Jai Redman’s installation This is Camp X-Ray had the greatest intrigue factor. Redman had built a replica of the Guantanamo Bay Camp X-Ray site on unused land in Hulme, an area of regeneration in the city centre; the camp was surrounded by new housing developments and billboard adverts for exclusive city living. Most people in the UK have seen images of the Cuban camp on television or in the press, but it is impossible to gain a real sense of the place as ‘real’ – as we are always distanced by both media and military. Although I couldn’t enter the Manchester version and had to gaze through wire fencing, I managed to glimpse one of the volunteer camp guards emerging from a military-style tent – Redman had recruited volunteers via the internet to perform the roles of guards and ‘unlawful combatants’. The construction of Camp X-Ray in the centre of Manchester meant that the city’s inhabitants, whether they resided inside or outside the camp, were bluntly reminded of the existence of something they may have often tried to forget.
More gentle work by Helen Knowles couldn’t compete with Redman’s installation for notoriety or scale, but was interesting nevertheless. For Growth Investment, Knowles cast instruments from a disused botany lab in paper made from plant fibre, and placed them in the Royal Exchange, a symbol of Manchester’s trade history and now a busy theatre.
Maggie Lambert’s statement was less subtle, with photographic portraits of Asyli=um Seekers positioned as billboards in ‘Little Ireland’, a former slum area of the city.
UHC Collective, who curated the exhibition, state that it’s main aim is to “to produce political art”. One could argue that all art is political and that what UHC mean is ‘issue-based’ art. But however we define it, artwork that confronts audiences with the theme of cultural imperialism in the places where they live, travel and work is bound to be provocative, and to effectively blur the boundary between art and the act of protest.
Clare Gannaway is a curator and writer living in Manchester.
Wednesday, 8 October 2003
Thanks to a group of artists and activists in Manchester, people in this country can now get a taste of the rough justice meted out to ‘unlawful enemy combatants’ at the US base at Guantanamo Bay, without even leaving the UK.
BY ALLY FOGG
Hulme in inner-city Manchester may not have the weather enjoyed by the sun-kissed Caribbean isle of Cube, but it will soon have it’s very won detention centre, just like tat set up by the US Navy in Guantanamo Bay on the southern tip of the island.
A full-size, working replica of a section of the detention centre formerly known as Camp X-Ray (now rebuilt and renamed Camp Delta) is currently being constructed in Hulme, but unlike the real Camp Delta, those incarcerated within it will be there by choice.
The camp will hold nine ‘prisoners’ at any one time (drawn from a large pool of volunteers working on a shift system), representing the nine British citizens detained by the US authorities at Camp Delta, including Jamal Udeen who was brought up just up the road in Moss Side. Volunteer ‘guards’ will man the sentry posts which flank the camps entrance and the barbed-wire topped chain link fence which surrounds it. The entire installation will be floodlit and rigged for tannoy broadcasts.
This extraordinary and audacious project, equal parts art installation, agit-prop intervention and Situationist prank, has been put together by Jai Redman and the UHC political art collective. The idea behind the project, entitles, This is Camp X-Ray, is to challenge what UHC see as public apathy over the fate of the 680-plus detainees at Giantanamo Bay and explore experiencers of incarceration and sensory deprivation.
According to Redman, “each of the individual prisoners and guards will have their own story to tell. That’s the only way political change can now be realised in this country, because voting and marching don’t work.”
‘This is Camp X-Ray’ will run 24-hours a day from October 8-18 in Hulme, Manchester.
For more information, visit: www.uhc-collective.org.uk