Spaces of Disappearance: The Architecture of Extraordinary Rendition
Jordan H. Carver
UR Books, September 2018
Paperback | 6 x 9 inches | 264 pages | b/w illustrations | Languages | ISBN: 978-1947198012 | $25.00
By investigating the sovereign claims of American power and the architectural spaces of secret prisons, Spaces of Disappearance reconstructs the network of black site prisons developed in the early years of the so-called War on Terror. Jordan H. Carver compiles an original archive of architectural representations, redacted documents, and media reports to build a knowingly incomplete spatial history of post-9/11 extraordinary rendition. Framed by an introductory essay by architectural historian and theorist Felicity D. Scott that positions Carver’s work within a longer history of military strategy and state violence against “uncertain” warfare, this book skillfully presents the territorial and political logics of the top-secret CIA Detention and Interrogation Program. Spaces of Disappearance
how architectures of confinement were designed to deny prisoners their human subjectivity and describes how the spectacle of government bureaucracy is used as a substitute for accountability.
Earlier this year the BBC put online a series of interactive, immersive scenes “from inside the extraordinary Venezuelan shopping center that became the country’s most notorious political prison.” El Helicoide, as the structure is known, was the subject of an exhibition at the Center for Architecture and a book published by UR Books. The BBC feature virtually takes people inside spaces whose details are not otherwise known to the public, since they fall well outside the standards of humane treatment of prisoners. Jordan H. Carver does a similar thing — but with traditional architectural drawings rather than interactive programming, and with Guantanamo and other “secret prisons” used by the US government in the post-9/11 War on Terror.
Carver’s book is made up of two parts: “Politics, Sovereignty, and Secrecy” and “An Atlas of Extraordinary Rendition.” The first part takes us back to the days and years after 9/11, when the US justified the use of torture in its War on Terror, memorably through the words of Donald Rumsfeld (“known unknowns”). But in the context of the architectural nature of torture (the prisons, the cells, the devices, etc.), Carver delves into the history of the US base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and even explores how SteelCell, based in Georgia, fabricates prefabricated prison cells for the US government. This first part provides a theoretical grounding for the “atlas,” the drawings that move from the scale of buildings to the interiors of the cells (both holding and interrogation) and the devices used within them (e.g., a device for force feeding prisoners on hunger strikes). Lengthy appendices gather primary sources (some redacted) provide evidence for Carver’s words and drawings and further justify the necessity for his book.
Jordan H. Carver is a writer, researcher, and educator who writes on space, politics, and culture. He is a contributing editor to the Avery Review, a core member of Who Builds Your Architecture?, and a Henry M. MacCracken Doctoral Fellow in American Studies at New York University.