Naeem Mohaiemen
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Disappeared in America

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DISAPPEARED IN AMERICA

When An Interpreter Could Not Be Found | Window Projection | FACT | Liverpool | 2008 | 1 in series of 40 | 2006.

Visible was a collective of artists, activists, and lawyers looking at hyphenated states and security panic. The majority of detainees in paranoia times were from the invisible underclass - shadow citizens who drive taxis, deliver food, clean tables, and sell fruit, coffee, and newspapers. The only time we “see” them is when we glance at the license in the taxi partition, or the vendor ID card. When detained, they cease to exist in the consciousness. The impulse to create an in-sider-outsider dynamic with “loyalty” overtones has a pedigree: WWI incarceration of German-Americans; 1919 detention of immigrants in Anarchist bomb scare; WWII internment of Japanese-Americans; and HUAC “red scare”.

Disappeared in America is a walk-through multimedia installation that uses a film trilogy, soundscapes, photos, objects, and the audi-ence’s interactions to humanize the faces of “disappeared” Muslims. Since 9/11, thousands of American Muslims have been detained in a security dragnet. The majority of those detained were from the invisible underclass of cities like New York. They are the recent immigrants who drive taxis, deliver food, clean restaurant tables, and sell fruit, coffee, and newspapers. The only time we see their faces are when we glance at the hack license in the taxi partition, or the ID card around the neck of a vendor. Already invisible in our cities, after detention, they have become “ghost prisoners.”