Alfredo Jaar: The Garden of Good and Evil

This powerful work by Alfredo Jaar, who is regarded as one of the world’s most politically engaging artists, draws attention to a difficult and challenging subject. A number of steel cells, just large enough to house a standing or crouched body, represent ‘black sites’, the secret detention facilities operated by the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and used to interrogate suspects. Known sites include Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, as well as locations in Romania, Italy, Poland, Lithuania, Thailand, Kenya and Egypt.

Enigmatic and alone, one cell stands in the lake. The remaining cells are partially obscured from view within an adjacent area of woodland, in the same way that the ‘black sites’ are hidden and shrouded in secrecy. As we walk up the slope and amongst the trees, the steel structures are slowly revealed as a disconcerting discovery in this otherwise peaceful landscape.

Each cell has a one-metre square base, drawn from the poem One Square Metre of Prison by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, who was imprisoned many times and spent much of his life in exile. The poem and Jaar’s work remind us of the privilege of freedom and the power of the human imagination.

The Garden of Good and Evil was generously donated to YSP by the artist and a/political.