Performing the Torture Playlist, Found Digital Video (59 minute loop), 2012

Still from Tipton Three Exhibition Space, 2012.
Performing the Torture Playlist
by Adam Harms

Commissioned work from L.A.-based new media artist Adam Harms is currently on display in the Tipton Three Exhibition Space. The 59 minute long video montage "Performing the Torture Playlist" explores some of the psychological torture techniques involving American pop music used in the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility while it was still in operation. In addition to the video work, there are several planned live karaoke performances at the Guantanamo Bay Museum of Art and History Performance Center where actors will reenact portions of the playlist.

Artist Statement

In 2003 it was revealed that American pop music was being used by interrogators, often in conjunction with sleep deprivation and strobe lights, to torture prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. In 2009 a coalition of outraged musicians filed a freedom of information request with the CIA and FBI to release the list of songs used. The songs included hits such as "We are The Champions" by Queen, "Enter Sandman" by Metallica, "Dirrty" by Christina Aguilera and most famously "I Love You" from the children's television show "Barney."

This video is a collection of 18 karaoke performances of different songs from the torture playlist. I chose karaoke because they do not retain the cleanliness of production or the harmony of the original songs. The sound is abrasive, blown out, and the echoes of the room are heard, mirroring the experience of the music played at excruciating levels in a cell. The songs are performed by "regular Americans" highlighting complicity of all Americans in the torture their government performed on the inmates of Guantanamo Bay.

Adam Harms is a web developer and fiction writer living in Los Angeles. He received his B.A. in performance and installation art from University of California Santa Cruz and co-founded Tight Artists—a now-defunct net art collective and interactive social gallery. In addition to showing and curating work in exhibitions worldwide, he also writes fiction under an undisclosed pen name.