Ars Electronica
Ars Electronica 2007
Festival-Program 2007
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Terminal Air


The Institute for Applied Autonomy / Trevor Paglen

Terminal Air is an installation that examines the mechanics of extraordinary rendition, a current practice of the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in which suspected terrorists detained in Western countries are transported to so-called black sites for interrogation and torture. Based on extensive research, the installation imagines the CIA office through which the program is administered as a sort of travel agency coordinating complex networks of private contractors, leased equipment, and shell companies. Wall-mounted displays track the movements of aircraft involved in extraordinary rendition, while promotional posters identify the private contractors that supply equipment and personnel. Booking agents’ desks feature computers offering interactive animations that enable visitors to monitor air traffic and airport data from around the world, while office telephones provide real-time updates as new flight plans are registered with international aviation authorities. Apparently discarded receipts, notes attached to computer monitors and other ephemera provide additional detail, including names of detainees and suspected CIA agents, dates of known renditions, and images of rendition aircraft.

Terminal Air is produced by the Institute for Applied Autonomy, inspired by conversations with researcher and author Trevor Paglen (Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA's Rendition Flights—Melville House Publishing).

Data on the movements of the planes was compiled by Paglen, journalist Stephen Grey (Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA Torture Program—St. Martin’s Press) and an anonymous army of plane-spotting enthusiasts.

Terminal Air is funded in part by the Rhizome Commissions Program and by a Social Hacking commission from Kurator.org.