Index of the Disappeared (February 11-March 21, 2014; April 7-May 19, 2014)

by Chitra Ganesh and Mariam Ghani, the 2013-14 A/P/A Institute Artists-in-Residence

Index of the Disappeared: Secrets Told is a site-specific installation of images, sound, texts, and documents related to leak prosecutions, the surveillance state, and the persistence of the panopticon in the prison-industrial complex.

The installation is on view at the A/P/A Institute at NYU gallery (8 Washington Mews, between University Place and Fifth Avenue) February 11-March 21, 2014, 11AM-5PM, Monday-Friday. On Thursday, February 27; Thursday, March 6; and Thursday, March 13, we will offer extended viewing hours (11AM-8PM). The opening reception, scheduled for Thursday, February 13, was canceled due to the inclement weather and has been rescheduled for Wednesday, March 12, 7-9PM.

Index of the Disappeared: Parasitic Archive installs a library-within-a-library version of the Index archive in the Richard Ettinghausen Library at the NYU Kevorkian Center, integrating literary and media resources culled from the library’s collection, with primary source documents from the Index’s collection, to temporarily re-design the library environment.

On view at the Richard Ettinghausen Library, NYU Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies (50 Washington Square South, entrance at 255 Sullivan Street) from April 7-May 12, 2014, Monday-Friday, 9AM-5PM except when occasional lectures take place. Please see before planning your visit.

Index of the Disappeared: Watch This Space is a series of posters and installations created specifically for the NYU Kimmel Windows Gallery. The works on view reference techniques for both conducting and evading surveillance, and reflect the chilling effects of pervasive and invasive surveillance targeting communication systems and political speech. The exhibition’s title alludes to a strategy used by some librarians to circumvent gag orders imposed by National Security Letters, which demand access to patron records. These librarians have posted public signs that warn: “We have never been served an NSL; watch this space for the removal of this sign.”

On view in NYU’s Kimmel Windows Gallery from Tuesday, April 15-Monday, May 19, 2014. The windows are located on LaGuardia Place and West 3rd Street and are viewable from the street, 24/7.

Artists’ Statement

Chitra Ganesh and Mariam Ghani have collaborated since 2004 on the project Index of the Disappeared, which is both a physical archive of post-9/11 disappearances and a mobile platform for public dialogue. Index also stages visual and poetic interventions to circulate fragments of our archive in the wider world.

As an archive, Index of the Disappeared foregrounds the difficult histories of immigrant, ‘Other’, and dissenting communities in the United States since 9/11. Through official documents, secondary literature, images, and personal narratives, we trace the ways in which censorship and data blackouts are part of a discursive shift to secrecy. We track how this shift continues, for over a decade, to aggressively enact disappearances, deportations, renditions, and indefinite imprisonment on an unprecedented scale, now accompanied by unprecedented mechanisms of surveillance and drone warfare. Index builds up its collection by collaborating with those who actively take on political and legal challenges to the policies we track, and draws on radical archival, legal, and activist traditions to select, group, and arrange information.

As a platform, Index initiates discussions on ideas and issues related to the materials it archives, and draws upon materials in the archive to create site-specific installations and text-based works in a broad range of physical and virtual spaces. Index has been presented in galleries, museums, universities, community centers, libraries, conferences, publications, windows, the street, the web, and the mail. These visual, poetic, and public interventions are designed to confront audiences with the human costs of public policies, challenging them to re-consider the abstractions of political debate in specific, individual terms.

Read more about Ganesh and Ghani’s residency with the A/P/A Institute at NYU.