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Ambiguity of mobility
The Guantanamobile is an interesting project because it presents both the lack or restriction of mobility, along with the apparent mobility that comes with the inability to place something.
The van itself is the most obviously mobile aspect of the project, but in fact the results posted on the projects website are not indicative of that mobility. The project’s creators say that they wanted to add to the public dialogue by continuing with the “man on the street” interviews started during World War II. But there does not seem to be anything about the interviews that links them to particular places, other then the graphic that says where the speaker is speaking from. The spattering of voices from five midwestern cities and Nashville did not say anything about those areas themselves, nor did it indicate what effect the van’s presence may have had.
At the same time, the ambiguity of mobility was a compelling theme through the work. Kurnaz, like many of the other detainees were subjected to mobility, by being shipped from Afghanistan to Gitmo, rather than having taken part in it. There is the obvious restriction of mobility that comes from being imprisoned, but there is also the conceptual mobility of the detention center and the detainees themselves. What country do the detainees belong to? Whose laws should they be tried under? Who is responsible for their treatment? Where does Gitmo sit? These questions are mobile in that the answers are constantly shifting, depending on the political needs of people in control.
- Neel Garlapati, University of Southern California, 12.08.2005
Thank you Vectors for aiding the Guantanamobile Project financially and including them in your issue about mobility. They are clearly invested in mobility as evidenced by the their 2004 project and the story of the enforced mobility experienced by detainees like Murat Kurnaz but perhaps most importantly they bring up the notion of mobilization as it applies to the “lay American.” Generating conversations and increasing understanding about the situation at the base at Guantanamo Bay is a very valuable endeavor. I believe that the interviews with individuals like Michael Ratner, CCR, are more pertinent than the road interviews with random Americans especially if the Guantanamobile Project envisions itself as educators. The online element of the Guantanamobile Project is organized coherently and extends a site for social activism to the world of cyberspace. In the same way that their trip through the South and the Midwest forces people to reconsider ideas about law, justice, torture, detainment, and the prisoners themselves, hopefully the information online will travel beyond the borders of the initial project and reach a much wider audience.
- ghia godfree, Los Angeles, CA, 12.08.2005
I really like the complementary nature of the two parts of this project, both the story of Murat Kurnaz, as a real human story of what is going on at Guantanamo and the public opinions gathered through the Guantanamobile. This project allows users to navigate both the “truth” and the “perception” in interesting ways. While the creators of the project seem to be anti-Guantanamo in their stance, the project allows for other positions to come out through the interviews from the Guantanamobile. That being said I sometimes felt like the Guantanamobile didn’t get enough attention in the piece and was overshadowed by Murat Kurnaz’s story in the way the video clips are arranged. I was curious to see some of the other parts of the Guantamobile project as well, such as perhaps excerpts of the human rights film that was shown as part of the vans travels across the country. I do think that this project does emphasize well one of the most fascinating and terrifying things about this topic, which is how little we as citizens know about what really goes on in the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, whether the opinion of the prison is positive or negative. Projects like this are important because they force users, either passer by on the street or journal readers to question what the government is doing without our knowledge. I would like to see the larger documentary project as well.
- Elizabeth Affuso, Los Angeles, 12.09.2005