Synopses & Reviews
The world was shocked by the images that emerged from Abu Ghraib, the US-controlled prison in Iraq. Lynndie England, the young female army officer shown smiling devilishly as she humiliated male prisoners, became first a scapegoat and then a victim who was "just following orders." Ignored were the more elemental questions of how women are functioning within conservative power structures of government and the military. Why do the military and the CIA use female sexuality as an interrogation tactic, and why is this tactic downplayed and even ignored in internal investigations of prisoner abuse?
Combining an art project with critical commentary, Coco Fusco imaginatively addresses the role of women in the war on terror and explores how female sexuality is being used as a weapon against suspected Islamic terrorists. Using details drawn from actual accounts of detainee treatment in US military prisons, Fusco conceives a field guide of instructional drawings that prompts urgent questions regarding the moral dilemma of torture in general and the use of female sexuality specifically. Fusco assesses what these matters suggest about how the military and the state use sex, sexuality, and originally feminist notions of sexual freedom.
"In this fascinating pastiche of text, performance and illustration, artist Fusco goes undercover at a military interrogation training camp, unearths confidential FBI memos and channels Virginia Woolf as she investigates the use of female sexual aggression as an interrogation tactic authorized by the Pentagon, called 'Invasion of Space by a Female.'. Fusco chillingly recounts how female officers and soldiers at Abu Ghraib and Guantnamo Bay endorsed and participated in the abuse and sexual humiliation of prisoners. According to Fusco, these soldiers cannot be dismissed as a few 'bad apples,' but must be recognized as the products of an entertainment culture that depicts torture as effective and even sexy, and a military culture that embraces sexual and cultural stereotypes. Fusco chides feminists who have remained silent about the issue, saying, 'It is high time that we recognize that it is nothing short of a lie to frame American women's experience exclusively in terms of powerlessness.' In the 'intercultural theater' of military torture scenarios and 'in the exercise of global power as Americans, women are called upon and agree to act in public capacities as aggressors, frequently by making strategic use of their femininity.' Fusco confronts her deeply disturbing material with unflinching bravery and characteristic originality." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The strategic uses of female sexuality in the war on terror.
About the Author
COCO FUSCO is a New York-based interdisciplinary artist and writer. She is the author of English is Broken Here: Notes on Cultural Fusion in the Americas, and editor of Corpus Delecti: Performance Art of the Americas and Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self (with Brian Wallis). A recipient of a 2003 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, she is an associate professor at Columbia University. Her work on military interrogation was selected for the 2008 Whitney Biennial.