08 March 2016
08 March 2016 - Written by Laurence Cornet
In his photobook, Negative Publicity: Artefacts of Extraordinary Rendition, British photographer Edmund Clark examines the undocumented facets of the war on terror and challenges the practices of modern state control.
Edmund Clark’s latest book concludes his dissection of the war on terror that was jointly and secretly waged by several Western States. Clark’s comprehensive research was carried out in collaboration with counter-terrorism investigator, Crofton Black and focuses on the components of power in the context of extraordinary rendition, with secrecy at its core. “Extraordinary rendition is a form of secrecy in which a person does not know where he or she is. It is a secrecy which functions as torture - it is part of the operational logic of the interrogation”, Eyal Weizman writes in the afterword.
Precisely, extraordinary rendition is a program that was active between 2002 and 2008 and consisted in arresting suspects of terrorism. The prisoners were then shuttled without notice from site to site, where they were subject to “enhanced interrogation techniques” - a diplomatic euphemism for physical and psychological torture. Extraordinary rendition involved an array of international officials and private companies, all exculpated by state security or the lack of awareness of the full picture. “It’s a complex network in which only partial information travels so everyone is covered somehow and everyone can pretend not to know”, Weizman adds.
The book reveals the irony of this masked game, culminating with the statement of former President of Lithuania - a country that hosted a secret jail: “Do you have at least a scrap of paper which would indicate that that was the case in Lithuania? […] my dear, [if] you put this in front of me, some kind of evidence, I will be the first to publicly apologise.”
A foray into the dark corners of modern conflict, the spiral-bound book gives equal weight to the photos and the accompanying well-researched documents. Clark’s images, though mundane in substance, are not arbitrary. An inventory of the architectural components of extraordinary rendition’s complex web, they paradoxically acknowledge the human element behind the paperwork while demonstrating the limits of exposing it.
By piecing together the various accounts - plane logs, invoices, contractual records, CIA correspondence, prisoner’s testimony -, we are forced to face the evidence and take position as they reveal the magnitude and impenetrability of the human-rights abuses. Cornered, a man who featured on a popular aviation forum the inside of a plane that proved to have served for rendition flights chooses to declare: “I am absolutely NOT into politics. […] I hope to be able to keep out of related discussions for as long as I live.” “How about us?”, ask the authors.
Negative Publicity: Artefacts of Extraordinary Rendition by Edmund Clark and Crofton Black
Co-published with Magnum Foundation // Published: January 2016 // Essay by Eyal Weizman // 288 pages, 35 colour photographs and 83 reproduced documents // Spiral-bound Hardcover
Edmund Clark is a visual artist whose work links history, politics, and representation.
Laurence Cornet is a writer and curator based in Brooklyn focusing on cultural and environmental issues.