Passage Oublié is an interactive artwork about extraordinary renditions, the practice whereby terror(ized) suspects are disappeared into a global network of secret detention camps. The artwork is installed at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, Canada, where an estimated three million people will see it on their way to nearby security gates. The artwork consists of an interactive world map where user-generated messages are animated along rendition flight paths, triggered by real-time flight departure data. Viewers can use the touchscreen interface to find out more about different nodes of this clandestine network, and to view messages left by previous visitors. Given that rendition flights take place in CIA-controlled commercial jets, civilian airports are the only point of contact between this transnational extralegal detention network and the rest of the world, which is largely oblivious to such activity. The unique strength of Passage Oublié as an artwork lies in its location within the same network.
It is no coincidence that the civilian international travel network provided camouflage both for the 9/11 attacks and the transport of ghost prisoners. As transportation becomes more efficient, the strategic importance of mobility increases. Be it in the form of train derailments, car-bombings, airplane hijacking or repurposing entire transportation networks, both transnational extremists and nationalist forces have subverted civilian transportation networks to their own ends. Our paper will use the Passage Oublié project as a starting point for discussing how mobility enables not only the outsourcing of car-making and client support, but also of torture in remote secret detention sites. Modern transportation networks allow the ‘enhanced interrogations’ to fluidly shift locations, and hence escape public scrutiny.
As we ourselves transit through the same network, we should all wonder what is going on behind that unmarked door, on that distant runway, inside that unmarked plane.
- Maroussia Lévesque Venue Coordinator, National Film Board of Canada, Conceptual Lead, Obx Laboratory for Experimental Media Hexagram Institute, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada. maroussialevesque.com
- Jason Edward Lewis, B.Sc., B.A., M.Phil., Professor of Computation Arts, Design and Computation Arts, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada, Research Director, Obx Labs concordia.ca/finearts/design/faculty.html?fpid=jason-edward-lewis