The so-called "War on Terror" doesn’t make news headlines like it used to, but the military campaign rages on. As it persists, increasingly unsettling fragments emerge from the ashes of catch-all ‘counterterrorism,’ and British photographer and artist Edmund Clark is ready and waiting to pick up the pieces. Edmund Clark: War of Terror, his ongoing solo exhibition at the Imperial War Museum of London, is a collection of multimedia projects engaging with disparate aspects related to the War on Terror and other elements of pervasive state control.
In Negative Publicity, Clark has visualized the research of counterterrorism investigator Crofton Black. Locations related to rendition flights, which involve the secret abductions of ‘dangerous individuals,’ are revealed, ranging from hotels used by the rendition teams to the now-abandoned interrogation rooms used for the abductees. The images are almost always devoid of people and at times have been heavily censored, an eerie combination of ghostly suppression.
Guantanamo: If the Light Goes Out illustrates the experience of Guantanamo detainees in three distinct chapters: Guantanamo itself, the camps in which the prisoners are detained, and the homes of released detainees attempting to reintegrate themselves into society after their traumatic experiences.
Letters to Omar, another project on view, also deals with Guantanamo, but hones in on Omar Deghayes, a UK resident who was detained for five years before his release in 2007. Letters sent to him while at Guantanamo are on view, but these are in fact scans of copies of the originals; results of the heavily bureaucratic censorship applied onto the correspondence to disallow Deghayes from viewing the original copies.
An anonymous terror suspect is the subject of Control Order House. The hundreds of images included in this section are of the house where the suspect was forced to live in during the investigation, as part of the British government's “Home Office enforced control order.” While he is absent from the images and his identity is hidden, it is revealed that the individual was detained without trial, solely on the basis of unrevealed ‘secret evidence.’
Clark’s interest in the war stems off of three primary motivations. The first is originated from “Guantanamo Bay becoming a geo-political event. It was the contrast between the imagery of ‘the worst of the worst’ in orange jumpsuits, and the first British detainees who came back to the UK and were never tried for anything and went back to live in their houses as innocent people. My work started by exploring that contrast,” Clark tells The Creators Project.
“Secondly, the realization that the propaganda, which is a common part of war, was not able to reach a new level through the combination of 24/7 global media, the Internet, digital technology, and social media in particular. So I have been interested in the war of terror and war of images-as-spectacle, and how that has been used by all sides. Thirdly, I have been interested in new forms of conflict which seem to characterize this war, and in particular trying to explore visual strategies and forms for seeing unseen or unaccountable experiences and the processes of conflict.”
Clark believes that these bodies of work, as well as his other projects investigating the War on Terror are not meant to shape events at large, but instead serve as point of reflection for the future: “I think my work may have more influence in years to come when people look back and reflect on these events and the questions my work raises. Contemporaneously, I think all I can possibly hope is to make work which engages people enough for them to reflect, revisit, and reconfigure how and what they think about these events and the processes behind them,” Clark adds.