Rendition Engine, 2010
Sound, video, and blown glass
The idea for this work grew from an unusual photograph, by Trevor Paglen, of unmarked, modern jets normally used by major airlines. It was unusual for the jets' bland appearance and the optical characteristics of the photograph itself. The jets were painted so as to not attract attention, when in fact they attracted particular attention among planespotters for being so nondescript, and also for being flown to remote "black" sites thought to be operated by the CIA. The photo was optically weird because the photographer took it from such a great distance that the atmospheric depth between he and the planes was deforming the view.
Paglen's photo led me to Extraordinary Rendition, which involves the unacknowledged, illegal kidnapping and air transport of prisoners around the world to be interrogated and often tortured so as to force the divulgence of information about terrorist activities. Much was learned about the CIA's rendition program over the last eight years through the work of planespotters in tracking rendition planes, the work of journalists and human rights advocates in gathering of testimony by former detainees, and in the work of people who connected all of the dots and unearthed the rendition program in its present form. There's really nothing extraordinary about Extraordinary Rendition anymore, even with the change in administration. Everyone knows it exists, but the facts surrounding it remain state secrets.
Rendition Engine is an iconographical interpretation of the recent history of Extraordinary Rendition, using audio and video in the context of a blown-glass form that resembles a commercial jet engine.