“There are currently 120 detainees on hunger strike in Guantanamo Bay” fades onto the white backdrop in the opening of Yasiin Bey/Mos Def’s widely-circulated video published today on the Guardian. The video, directed by Asif Kapadia, shows Yasiin Bey (described as “better known as Mos Def”) as he voluntarily undergoes the process by which hunger-striking Guantanamo prisoners are force fed with legally-sanctioned brutality.
The piece joins a number of other high-profile reenactments aimed at questioning American policy at the controversial prison camp, which Barack Obama’s administration has thus far failed to close despite campaign promises to the contrary. Most significantly, the piece recalls the video recording of Christopher Hitchens’s waterboarding, carried out in 2008 at the suggestion of Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter. Though Yasiin Bey’s piece exudes the aesthetic calculations of a work of performance art, much of that effect is due to the efforts of Asif Kapadia, a well-respected filmmaker with an activist bent.
Long before the current hunger strike began, however, the American prison camp at Guantanamo Bay has found itself at the center of numerous works of political art, ranging from the paintings of Steve Mumford and Banksy’s guerrilla installation at Disneyland to the Guantanamo Bay Museum of Art and History, a conceptual work constructing an elaborate fiction purporting to be a real museum opened to commemorate and reflect upon the closure of the American prison in Cuba.
Back within the realm of grim reality, in 2010 Slate also published images of a number of artworks produced by Guantanamo prisoners at art classes that had been then newly offered there.
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Note: the below video is quite graphic.