Civil unrest had reached critical mass. It was the first night of the 2016 Chinese New Year, but a riot had broken out on the streets of Mong Kok. Bricks ripped from the pavement in addition to broken bottles, trash cans, shipping palettes, and even police barricades bombarded Hong Kong police officers. As the chaos erupted, a Hong Kong police officer pointed his pistol at the unyielding crowd of protesters in self-defense. The show of force and locked aim did nothing to subdue the approaching swarm or their projectiles. The officer quickly fired two shots in the air as another officer laid on the ground unconscious. By the end of night, 61 citizens had been arrested, scores injured, at least 22 fires had been set, and over 2,000 bricks had been dug up.
Since the start of the Umbrella Revolution in 2014, political tension between Hong Kong and China has been palpable. Pro-democracy forces remain resistant to Beijing as it pulls Hong Kong further under its political influence. Hong Kong, a semiautonomous city with an open press and freedom of speech, continues to be scrutinized by China since its handover from the British in 1997. Hong Kong has long been a global trading post, and even with the rise of a capitalist China the city remains Asia’s financial center. Hong Kong has a unique position as a bridge between the mainland and global economy, providing a transparent justice system with secure investment conditions.
As citizens remain defiant, the Hong Kong government has banned protests during visits from top Chinese officials and continues to glue bricks down to the pavement throughout the city to prevent a repeat of the 2016 riots. The pro-Beijing government demonstrates its authority and commitment to China by gluing the bricks into place; uprooting the bricks, contests sovereignty, place, locality, and the forfeiture of culture.
A suppressed subject under British and Chinese rule, Hong Kong’s independence has become a mainstream conversation as more people consider themselves Hongkongers rather than Chinese. Growing fears of the loss of identity and culture are embedded in their democratic values and judicial transparency that protects freedom of speech and assembly.
In Equivalent, the struggle for Hong Kong’s political, social, and economic freedom has come down to control of the ground beneath their feet.
Since the end of 2001, it is almost daily that we hear news reports of bombs being dropped, missiles being fired, and areas being targeted by the United States military. With the numbers of missiles so high and so frequent it is difficult for anyone to comprehend their impact, both financially and in scale. The size and presence alone of these missiles is daunting and intimidating, with some missiles as tall as 15 feet (4.5m). The price is just as overwhelming, with some missiles, like the Tomahawk, costing over $1.5 million each.
Details assists in making these dimensions and costs real.
AGM-65 Maverick – 8’ 2” – $110,000 each AGM-84E SLAM – 14’ 8” – $720,000 each AGM-88E HARM – 13’ – $870,000 each AGM-114 Hellfire – 5’ 4” – $110,000 each AIM-9 Sidewinder – 9’ 11” – $665,000 each GBU-12 Paveway II – 10’ 11” – $21,000 each
STATE OF THE UNION
POOL ART CENTER GALLERY DRURY UNIVERSITY FEBRUARY 1 - 22, 2019
“That was when I came close to insanity,” Binyam Mohamed said, describing his detention at Guantanamo Bay: There were loudspeakers in the cell, pumping out what felt like about 160 watts, a deafening volume, non-stop, 24 hours a day. They played the same CD for a month, The Eminem Show. It’s got about 20 songs on it and when it was finished it went back to the beginning and started again.
In 2003, the US Department of Defense (DoD) and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) began approving and using music as an “interrogation” tactic within the broadly defined War on Terror. The practice of acoustic bombardment, dubbed music torture by critics, is where music (in this case, artists like Metallica, Christina Aguilera, Eminem, Queen, and Bruce Springsteen among others, along with the Sesame Street and Barney theme songs) is repeatedly played at deafening and maddening levels and lengths. The technique became common practice as psychological torture in prisons and detention centers in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and secret (or black) prisons such as the one used in Rabat, Morocco. In a declassified CIA report, Counterterrorism Detention and Interrogation Activities, specifics of the technique are laid out for soldiers and agents:
As a practical guide, there is no permanent hearing risk for continuous, 24-hours- a-day exposures to sound at 82 dB or lower; at 84 dB for up to 18 hours a day; 90 dB for up to 8 hours, 95 dB for 4 hours, and 100 dB for 2 hours.
This passage from the report is one of the few pertaining to the use of music and white noise that has not been redacted. Along with this report and others released through Freedom of Information Act requests as well as interviews and first-hand experience from former detainees and soldiers, there is a picture that is painted of detainees being shackled in stress positions within dark rooms that were extremely cold or hot while being forced to listen to deafening music for hours and days. Ruhal Ahmed, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, described his experience in a 2009 interview, “It makes you feel like you are going mad. You lose the plot, and it's very scary to think that you might go crazy because of all the music, because of the loud noise, [ . . . ] So after awhile it just plays with your mind.” Though music has been used before in war and psychological operations, the recent development in the method is much more scientific to quickly remove a prisoner’s identity, making them more malleable, and to “maximize his feeling of vulnerability and helplessness.”
The audio component captures, within seconds, the disorientating psychological effect that the detainees experienced during the music. It is a selection of the music used during the torture, where the songs are overlaid upon each other while being played at the same time, as an orchestra of confusion and psychosis. The corresponding visual work is the sheet music for each song used, but also layered upon each other until the musical notation redact and remove any readable information completely.