An invitation to listen to survivors


“It’s an invitation,” he says Aaron Hughes, cocurator of “Remaking the Exceptional: Tea, Torture, and Reparations,” an exhibition currently on display at the DePaul Art Museum. Marking the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, the exhibit examines the similarities between survivors of torture at the US military prison with survivors of police torture here in Chicago.

The installations, paintings, and sculptures are an invitation, as Hughes puts it, “To be with the work. To be with the research. To be with the questions. That invitation that we have been continuously invited into by survivors, by those most impacted. All our work is part of sharing that invitation. ”

And it’s strange: while one might expect a show about police torture, US imperialism, and violence to be cold and hard to look at, the two-floor exhibition is indeed inviting. I have visited it three times so far, moving quietly through the rooms, looking at walls emblazoned with the names of police torture survivors, gazing up at pastel drawings of flowers pressed neatly into the corner of one room.

It is not easy to sit here with the stories of brutality inflicted upon these survivors, but something continues to beckon me back. The work, the stories, even the quiet hum of survivor interviews piped through an installation on the first floor seems like an opening, a gesture to sit and stay awhile. Each time I exited the doors of the DePaul Art Museum, I found myself promising myself that I’d be back.



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