NEW YORK – A man with a black hood pours water on the face of a prisoner in an orange jumpsuit strapped to a table: no, it’s not Guantanamo Bay naval base, but New York’s Coney Island amusement park.
The scene using robotic dolls is an installation built by artist Steve Powers to criticize waterboarding, a simulated drowning technique the United States has admitted using on terrorism suspects, but that rights group say is torture.
“Waterboard Thrill Ride” beckons a sign along with cartoon character “SpongeBob SquarePants” who appears tied down and exclaiming: “It don’t Gitmo better!”
The public can peek through window bars and feed a dollar into the slot to bring the robotic dolls into action, one more attraction in the beachfront amusement park in the New York neighborhood of Brooklyn.
“Anyone can see this is painful from 50 feet away,” said Powers, who had previously been painting signs and storefronts in the area. “I wanted people to understand the psychological ramifications of this.”
Fulbright grant winner Steve Powers argues the work is intentionally provocative, and asks the New York Times, “What’s more obscene, the official position that waterboarding is not torture, or our official position that it’s a thrill ride?”
Marion Tracey, 57, from New Jersey, said she found the installation disturbing. It made her think of her father who had nightmares after returning from World War II. “In all wars, horrible things happen,” she said. “I’d rather not see it.”
Alex Soto, 23, said he thought it was a good thing for people to learn about waterboarding, but he added: “It is pretty twisted.”