Hans Bernhard on Wed, 14 Jan 2009 22:58:52 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Superenhanced by UBERMORGEN.COM, Text DOMENICO QUARANTA


Written by Domenico Quaranta

On the creative panorama of UBERMORGEN.COM, which ranges from the  
cold aesthetic of conceptual art, to the functional look of diagrams,  
the minimal semblance of pixels, the anonymity of reportage and the  
retro feel of noir and teletext, SUPERENHANCED stands out for its  
attractive, glossy, almost glamorous look. It is as if the torture  
team at Guantanamo had hired UBERMORGEN.COM to work on an image  
campaign to relaunch the popularity of practices getting a hard time  
in the media, such as Enhanced Interrogation and Extraordinary  
Rendition. UBERMORGEN.COM as the Oliviero Toscani of the CIA...
But while it is true that UBERMORGEN.COM, as in other projects,  
sacrifices a direct attack for the oblique and subtle strategy of  
overidentification, it is also true that it would be difficult to  
imagine a harsher condemnation of torture and its reappearance in a  
legalized, no less abhorrent, guise.

UBERMORGEN.COM adopts the language of marketing, because this is  
precisely what countries are now using to revamp and justify  
practices that, in name only, they eradicated decades ago. This  
ascetic, functional, hypocritical language, where “Cold Cell” means  
exposure to extreme cold before interrogation, “Waterboarding” is a  
controlled form of drowning, “Attention Slap” is a beating,  
“Extraordinary Rendition” means kidnapping, and “Enhanced  
Interrogation” is torture, from its mildest to most brutal forms  
(where the death of the prisoner is regarded as “collateral damage”)  
is the weak link in the phenomenon, and it is there that  
SUPERENHANCED strikes. It hits home with images that are both  
beautiful and terrible, featuring none other than the youngest  
members of UBERMORGEN.COM, Lola Mae and Billie Ada (aged 2 and 5  
respectively). The techniques of Enhanced Interrogation are tested  
out on them – standing for all the children imprisoned, tortured and  
sometimes killed in maximum security prisons around the world – and  
the rest of the UBERMORGEN.COM family, with the stated aim of  
“acclimatizing and familiarizing ourselves with them”.

The project also features a video, in which various scenes from the  
studio session when the photographs were taken are accompanied with  
sitcom-laughter sampled from G.W. Bush speeches; and the  
Superenhanced Generator), the archive of which is the point of  
departure for a series of live performances: torture sessions where  
the actor has no input, but merely conforms to the indications  
supplied by the generator, based on the users’ opinions on the  
contemporary use of torture.

In this dumb show, UBERMORGEN.COM insidiously withdraws the  
spectator’s last, reassuring delusions: that the system is, at the  
end of the day, principled; that most “enhanced interrogation” is  
mild; that torture is a form of “collateral damage” in a “necessary”  
fight against terror, and that overkill is rare, and when it happens,  
unavoidable. Now we are the ones inflicting those wounds.

(Release Jan 17, 2009)

The fourth episode in the generator tetralogy represents the central  
nucleus of a complex project dedicated to the contemporary use of  
torture, featuring prints, videos and performances. Using the slick,  
efficient marketing-style terms currently used to describe torture,  
the Superenhanced Generator could be described as a tool of “advanced  
interrogation” – inspired by the questionnaires used for market  
research. But one look at the interface of the site, with its top  
secret document aesthetic, occasionally interrupted by lines blacking  
out supposedly confidential information, reveals that this is no  
ordinary questionnaire. The questions, indeed, aim to determine one’s  
personal preferences concerning the so-called modern techniques of  
interrogation carried out by security and intelligence agencies, such  
as “Enhanced interrogation” (basically a legal form of torture) and  
“Extraordinary Rendition” (the equally ascetic term used to indicate  
the kidnapping of so-called “potential unlawful combatants” by  
government agencies such as the CIA and the FBI). During the  
interrogation (sorry, questionnaire) the Superenhanced Generator  
questions the user’s stance on these issues, his/her level of  
patriotism, political views, and how he or she would behave in  
potentially dangerous situations, and poses questions like: “Is it ok  
to step on an ant willingly? Who is more important: The System  
(Country, State, Company) or the individual, the person? How  
important is it to follow rules in enhanced interrogation? Hatred in  
the world is best fought by war – yes or no?
The final results of the questionnaire are presented to the user in  
the form of Rendition Orders and lists of questions for Enhanced  
Interrogations. The user’s data is also inputted into the generator’s  
database, which thus gradually becomes a repository of public will.  
The database also becomes the brain behind a series of live  
performances, where enhanced interrogations performed by real people  
are carried out according to the suggestions given by the database.  
The responses of the users therefore determine whether the  
Superenhanced Generator subsequently becomes a further instrument of  
torture, or a tool for civilization.

In February 2009, FPEditions (www.fpeditions.com) will publish the  
monograph UBERMORGEN.COM (edited by Domenico Quaranta, with  
contributions by Inke Arns and Jodi.org).

UBERMORGEN.COM, Superenhanced
OPENING & PERFORMANCE: Saturday, January 17, 2009 at 6.00 PM
 From January 17 to March 7, 2009
3.00 – 7.00 PM, closed on Sunday
via Alessandro Monti 13 - 25121 Brescia - tel. 030 3756139 - Skype:  

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