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DePaul Art Museum explores themes of torture, reparations in latest exhibition

‘Remaking the Exceptional: Tea, Torture, and Reparations | Chicago to Guantánamo’ runs through August 2022


DePaul Art Museum’s exhibition “Remaking the Exceptional: Tea, Torture, and Reparations | Chicago to Guantánamo” marks 20 years since the opening of the United States’ extralegal prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, by examining the local and international ramifications of state violence. The exhibition and associated publication, published by the museum, uplift acts of creative resistance while highlighting connections between policing and incarceration in Chicago and the human rights violations of the “Global War on Terror.”

The exhibition runs through Aug. 7 and features paintings, drawings, sculptures and installations produced by torture survivors, artists, activists and collectives. Contributors to the exhibition include Abdualmalik Abud, Mansoor Adayfi, Djamel Ameziane, Muhammad Ansi, Ghaleb Al-Bihani, Dorothy Burge, Chicago Torture Justice Memorials, Debi Cornwall, Amber Ginsburg, Assad “Haroon” Gul, Mashaun Hendricks, Aaron Hughes, Invisible Institute, Damon Locks, Lucky Pierre, Trevor Paglen, Prison + Neighborhood Arts/Education Project, Khalid Qasim, Sabri Mohammad Ibrahim Al Qurashi, Ahmed Badr Rabbani, and Sarah-Ji Rhee.

Al Qurashi, who was transferred from the military prison at Guantánamo Bay to Kazakhstan in 2014 and whose works in the exhibition range from capturing the interiors of the prison to beautiful bouquets of flowers, uses painting to “escape all the difficulties and hardships and go to this place which relaxes me.”

“Guantánamo was really difficult,” he says. “Even during those difficult times, during the hunger strike or during hardships in the camp, I would go to art class. Through painting, I could transform the atmosphere of the jail. If I was working on a nature scene, landscape or ocean, I could feel myself inside the painting itself. It was my way of escaping jail and detention. So, yes, art helped me to survive there, and it still does today.”

Occupying all of the museum’s galleries, “Remaking the Exceptional” is organized by DePaul Art Museum staff and curated by contributing artists Amber Ginsburg and Aaron Hughes. “The Tea Project,” which informs the development of the exhibition and the accompany publication, is an ongoing series of installations and performances that create opportunities to engage with local and global histories of war, torture and confinement. In the project, tea serves not only as a contradictory metaphor for imperialism and settler colonialism, but also as a ritual of human connection and international solidarity.
“Remaking the Exceptional” is accompanied by a fully illustrated exhibition catalogue that brings together artworks, poetry and testimony by torture survivors from Chicago and abroad, as well as new texts by leading scholars working at the intersection of aesthetics and politics.

“We are taking a hard and honest look together at our city’s and country’s histories, our reputation across the world, and the impact that has on our future generations of students, law enforcement and military personnel, journalists, scholars, artists and civilians,” says Laura-Caroline de Lara, director of DePaul Art Museum. “However, the examples of resilience and strength evident in each of the works by survivors are beautiful testaments to the healing power of art and its value as a catalyst for change.”

Support for this exhibition and its related programming is provided by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and from Illinois Humanities through its Envisioning Justice initiative. The museum is also pleased to collaborate on this project with other organizations doing ongoing and deeply impactful work in these areas, such as the Center for Constitutional Rights​, Chicago Torture Justice Memorials, Chicago Torture Justice Center, CAGE, HeaRT, Reprieve, Witness Against Torture, Invisible Institute, Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, and Prison + Neighborhood Arts/Education Project.
DePaul Art Museum is located at 935 W. Fullerton Ave. on the Lincoln Park Campus. The museum is open 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday and 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It’s closed Monday and Tuesday. Admission is free. Additional information is online​ or by calling (773) 325-7506.​​​