Guantánamo Bouncy Castle – in America: The Gift Shop


With torture as official US policy, the Constitution under perpetual attack, the Geneva Conventions shredded and children facing war crimes trials — to cite just a few of the wrongs that preoccupy me on a daily basis — it’s easy to forget that, outside of the secretive “War on Terror” prisons and the farcical courtrooms of Guantánamo, some artists are also focusing on the moral quagmire created by the Bush administration.

A case in point is Philip Toledano. In his new online installation, America: The Gift Shop, Toledano asks, “If American foreign policy had a gift shop, what would it sell?” and presents a series of mixed media works — about Guantánamo, Iraq and secret prisons — which, as he describes it, “reflect the current foreign policy in the fun-house mirror of American commerce.”

Along with T-shirts that look like they should be available to buy on the way out, an Abu Ghraib coffee table, and other barbed souvenirs of the last eight years, Toledano has recreated, as a kind of bouncy castle, one of Guantánamo’s notoriously Spartan maximum security cells, in which prisoners held for nearly seven years without charge or trial spend up to 23 hours a day.

As the website explained, in its appraisal of Toledano’s Gift Shop, “the must-have is probably the Guantánamo Bay bouncy cell, authentic in every detail, except that you can get out at some point. Watch for it at edgier birthday parties near you.”

Philip Toledano's Inflatable Guantanamo Bay bouncy prison cell

Andy is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and see here for my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

One Response

  1. david chirot says...

    These are ongoing blog project and essays re the Arts, Poetry and Guantanamo

    there are many entries re gunatanamo news as well as examinations of guatanamo with jenny holzer’s”projections” and the coney island guantanamo water torture sideshow etc etc

    the call for at works poems etc is open to all–
    many thanks for your book and site andy!
    Cracking World’s Walls & Codes Concrete & Virtual

    No Sieges, Tortures, Starvation & Surveillance
    Deadline/Fecha Limite: SinsLimite/ongoing
    Size: No limit/Sin Limite
    No Limit on Number of Works sent
    No Limit on Number of Times New Works Are Sent
    Documentation: on my blog
    David Baptiste Chirot
    740 N 29 #108
    Milwaukee, WI 53208


    “Torture, Rights and Writes” Essay/Intro to “The New Extreme Experimental Poetry and Arts”

    “Gitmos Across the USA” extensive lists of artilces and links on detention and detahs within the USA

    “Waiting for the Guards” film of extreme performance group undergoing “enhanced interrogations”used by the US & allies

    “Some Websites on Iraq”

    two essays published in on-line journals:
    David-Baptiste Chirot: “Waterboarding & Poetry”
    Wordforword #13 Spring 2008
    (also has Visual Poetry by chirot)
    Poems from Guantánamo
    The Detainees Speak
    David Baptite ChirotNo
    KAURAB Translation Site

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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