In the United States, any citizen may request government documents through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request; however, records are often delivered with black rectangles obscuring classified information. In some cases, the redacted information may include evidence that confirms US government–sanctioned acts of torture, detention, targeted violence such as drone attacks, military locations and research, departmental inquiries, or domestic spying on private citizens. Sometimes the redactions are so heavy that documents are rendered meaningless. Redactions illustrate the existence of facts that cannot be known.
Drawn from the BAMPFA collection, this exhibition features artworks that utilize redacted text, spaces, and elements as a tactic to both illustrate and obscure the precarious nature of truth. The artworks not only question the nature of power, information, and censorship but also present documents as a facet of modern-day warfare and surveillance. Two of the works respond to the US-sanctioned torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, while others examine US surveillance programs. Redactions, these artworks suggest, are darkness beyond darkness—obfuscations of truth that represent a void of knowledge. Whose lives and what kind of actions hide behind these redactions?