REPEATING USELESS GESTURES
In 2004, digital photographs snapped from within Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were made available to the public via The New Yorker and CBS News. The photos are shocking, vividly documenting atrocities committed by allied soldiers. The most infamous is of the prisoner known only as ‘Gilligan’, perched atop a cardboard box, arms outstretched, crudely hooded, electrodes attached to his fingers. Posed and photographed thus, the subject is objectified and aestheticised, becoming image, both more and less than human. Haunted by the spectre of this image, the symbol of the faceless figure (whether hooded, erased or otherwise covered) connects with a broader contemporary experience of control and alienation. Concealment or erasure of the face also references surveillance, profiling, torture, fetish, carnival and magic. A painted portrait in which all or parts of a face remain unseen sets up an oscillation between subject and object, into a fluid state of uncertainty.