Friday, March 28, 2008

Three years ago, Seymour Hersh wrote Torture at Abu Ghraib for The New Yorker which along with photos taken by servicemen and woman, burned an image of hooded, tortured and humiliated war detainees into my mind forever. While this iconic image of hooded figures has become an symbol for political cartoons and anti war t-shirts, it has become detached from the horrific story from which it originated.

Artist Daniel Heyman, began incorporating renderings of hooded figures into silkscreen prints and etchings following The New Yorker article in spring 2004. He came to realize the depersonalization and loss of relevance and impact.

It was a serendipitous meeting with Susan Burke, lead attorney in a reparations lawsuit against civilian interrogators and translators at Abu Ghraib, which led him to an invitation to join Burke’s legal team on a trip to Amman, Jordan. Depositions from former prisoners were to be taken and Heyman would sit in on the interviews and create drypoint etchings. For nearly a full week in Amman he listened to dozens of men and women relive their most hideous physical and emotional abuse under humiliating interrogations. He also joined Burke’s legal team for a duplicate round of depositions in Istanbul following in August. Working quickly, Heyman captured words as well as images. His own perspective is embedded in the work: In drypoint etching the copper plates are scratched into with a stylus in reverse so when printed they become "right-reading". He began drawing their faces as the interviews commenced. He listened to the reporting of biographical information through the translator, their marital status, the number of children they had, where they lived, but mostly Heyman concentrated on getting a good start on the portrait. They were often in prison many months, and the nature of these interviews was a recitation of the entirety—as much as they could remember—of all that time. Heyman had to listen, and alternate between capturing their image with documenting
These men and woman, once hooded and faceless, had become personality less global icons. It was in this interview and portraiture process, these Iraqis one by one began to regain their humanity...their faces...their voices.

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