Guantanamo Bay Museum Imagines Art-Filled Future for Detention Center


Last year a group of artists launched the Guantanamo Bay Museum of Art and History (GBMAH), a fictional museum in a spirit of satire reminiscent of The Onion’s recent trip to the Robert Mapplethorpe Children’s Museum, which claims to be “an institution dedicated to remembering the U.S. prison which was active between 2002 and 2012 before it was permanently decommissioned and closed.” Though located near the grounds of the controversial U.S. detention center in Cuba, at least according to Google Maps (see above), the GBMAH exists solely as an online entity with a website, Facebook page, and Twitter feed.

“The idea is to turn the prison into an abnormal institution and reinforce the possibility of its closure,” GBMAH curator Ian Alan Paul told the AFP last year. “People forget about the prison; we want to try to initiate a conversation and remind them that it still exists.”

The museum, whose website offers free membership and applications for an artist-in-residence program, lists among its main attractions the “Tipton-Three Exhibition Space” and the “Jumah al-Dossari Center for Critical Studies.” Exhibitions currently on view, according to the GBMAH website, include a performance of the so-called Guantanamo “torture playlist” by Adam Harms, and large-scale photos of at all the inmates visible at major prisons via Google Earth by Jenny Odell. The museum’s “About” page, which includes a photo of U.S. President Barack Obama signing a decree to close the detention center in 2008, explains the institution’s fictional history.

“When the last detention facility in Guantanamo Bay was officially decommissioned in 2010, an international team of artists, curators and architects began planning and designing a museum that would take the place of the detention facility — a little less than two years later, their work became reality,” the GBMAH website explains. “The purpose of the collaboration was both remember the human rights abuses that occurred while the prison was in operation while also providing a framework for combatting contemporary human rights abuses that continue to persist.”

Though the museum’s website smacks of satire, Alan Paul insists on the memorial aspect of the project. “The base can’t simply transition into military use,” he told AFP. “It has to be a memorial site so that we don’t forget what happened there.”

— Benjamin Sutton