Zone*Interdite’s animated interactive 3D-tour of the Guantanamo detention camp is part of a large-scale mapping of restricted military zones. In 1999, the two Swiss artists Christoph Wachter and Mathias Jud began conducting research for a database they later created via a web interface in 2003, under www.zone-interdite.net. Calling up the site, a grey world map appears, spotted with green dots, all locations of restricted areas: no man’s land, places where unauthorized entry is impossible.
The online walkthrough allows users to navigate through the prison of Guantanamo and Guantanamo Bay on a screen or a large format projection. These zones in particular were blind spots on the map, until the Internet and mobile phones with high-resolution cameras came into play. Their mapping requires extensive image research and deductive analysis online, which the two Swiss artists undertook, collecting and analysing all freely accessible images related to these places. In addition to Guantanamo, a 3D-tour of an Islamic training camp in Sudan was also created. The artists culled the homepages of veterans, soldier blogs but also official reports to put innumerable fragments together in order to form a new whole and enable viewers their free formation of opinion. However, since the visual worlds are reconstructions of evaluated images, they also have “blind spots” and are therefore as fictitious as they are true. Nevertheless, taking an expedition on www.zone-interdite.net offers the opportunity to independently perceive these restricted zones. Wachter and Jud’s project also caused a great international sensation when it achieved to locate the previously unconfirmed children’s prison in a former officers’ house on Guantanamo Bay and reconstruct its dimensions.
With their work, Wachter and Jud virtually monitor the controlling bodies, the military, the state and secret services. As normal citizens, every image we upload to the net, allows us, and others, to be increasingly monitored, rendering us increasingly transparent. This is made all the more clear by this work: not even military restricted areas are impenetrable. The Internet makes both intelligence and abuse possible. It is at the service of those who use it: all of us. Wachter & Jud do their part in offering it as a tool for democracy and the free formation of opinion.
(Text: Bettina Back)
Christoph Wachter, *1966 and Mathias Jud, *1974, both from Zurich, have been working together on participatory community projects since 2000. Their works have been shown in numerous institutions around the world, including the nGbK Berlin, Kunsthaus Dresden, Manchester Art Gallery, Galerie IG Bildende Kunst Vienna, Ars Electronica in Linz, File Festival São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Kassel Documentary Film and Video Festival and Kunsthaus Langenthal in Switzerland. Since 2016, they have held the directorship of the Kunsthalle am Hamburger Platz (KHHP), with a cross-departmental guest professorship at the Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin. Today they work and live in Berlin and Zurich.