Missing In Redaction: Jordan Scott at the Alternator

Karolina Bialkowska and Tomas Jonsson

jordan scott

Expanding on his presentation at last Wednesday’s panel, Jordan Scott noted the ways in which language dysfluency is recognized, and often produced, through physical duress. He examined how dysfluency is read and heard as a marker of guilt, of dishonesty, or of a lack of truth-telling. What happens when the forces (in this case military interrogators) that are looking for signs of dishonesty produce those signs themselves by inflicting pain on a body.

Jordan read a selection from his forthcoming collection, a poetics of the body, of his own speech patterns. It was an experience that asked profound questions of us: asking us to examine our own readings of dysfluency, shifting our understanding of places of cultural mythology into the real, and provoked dynamic conversations.

The second part of the evening was an investigation of the production of culturally mythologized places and spaces. Jordan Scott was granted access to the high-security prison of Guantanamo Bay. The irony of the poet’s stutter in a place that seeks to produce dysfluencies in the form of pained confessions? The soldiers’ camaraderie with the poet, the strange reversal of attitudes. “Hey man, you’re really doing it. My brother has a lisp, you know?” And quickly, they stopped paying attention to what Jordan was doing. Interestingly enough, Jordan relayed how poets are listed by the CIA as threatening because poetry can often be used to relay secret messages. Once prison guards had caught a prisoner writing poems and had come back to interrogate him, stating that they had understood his “allusions.”

Jordan presented audio and visual documentation of his visit to Guantanamo Bay detention facility as part of a media tour. Documentation was heavily constricted:  no non-permissible human subjects, no frontal facial three quarter or otherwise recognizable views. “If their mother can’t identify them, then it’s a good photo” was the general rule. Audio recordings were similarly controlled, but sounds are porous and harder to censor. What does redaction sound like?

The recording adds to our imaginary of this iconic facility and is unsettling in its banality: soundscapes of corridors, shuffling feet, rustling clothing, muted voices, moving through, and along, physical and human barriers. The continuous hum of machinery. The occasional sounds of animals from ecological spaces completely inaccessible to those detained. The ubiquity of the site underscored by Jordan’s observation that a McDonalds was located close to Camp X Ray, “making no sense and all the sense in the world.” The impression? It was all so horrifically mundane.

In the questions that followed, the audience asked how this space, this work, can connect to the local? Where are these local spaces, the people we can’t see, we can’t hear, even in our imaginary?

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