Field Visits for Bradley Manning: The Fight for Free Information

by Paddy Johnson on February 21, 2013 · 0 comments Events

It can be dangerous having Wikileaks attached to your name. Take Bradley Manning, a U.S. Army intelligence analyst, who was arrested for sharing documents with Wikileaks in 2010. In the words of UN torture expert, Juan Mendez, “Manning was subjected to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment in the excessive and prolonged isolation” during his nine months at Quantico, where he was placed under suicide watch.

Manning is now at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he awaits trial set for this June.

The proximity of that trial arguably creates an urgency to artist Lance Wakeling’s Kickstarter campaign to support the making of his film “Field Visits for Bradley Manning,” which promises not to be a straightforward documentary. Wakeling intends to create a travelogue based on the places where Manning was detained. Those sites, in Kuwait, Virginia, Kansas, and Maryland, are likely to be more difficult to film as the trial approaches.

The film will explore the surrounding areas’ peripheral histories, highlighting how each has already been shaped by the fight for free information. According to Wakeling, this history of fingerprinting, the buffalo soldier, Dilmunite and Greek settlements in the Gulf, a geological formation called tar-crete, the National Cryptographic Museum, and the life of a village surrounded by a military installation are all subjects that will be explored.

“Field Visits” is the third film of a trilogy exploring how the digital world affects how we see the physical world. Some of that context is discussed in an interview published this morning on Rhizome. “In many of the places [filmed in Part 1, A Tour of the AC-1 Transatlantic Submarine Cable] I felt I was not making new pictures, but reproducing ones that already existed.” Wakeling said. “At the other end of the process, in the editing room, I could sometimes not differentiate between ‘original’ and poached images.”

And yet, even with the ubiquity of images growing to such an extent that we can no longer identify the ones we’ve made ourselves, the desire to clamp down on free speech is felt even within the lowest rungs of government workers. As Wakeling tells us on his Kickstarter page, his attempts to take footage of the Brooklyn Bridge were thwarted by an officer who told him he didn’t have the permission. The rationale was absurd: it might be seen by “the wrong people.”

Live in New York long enough, and most of us will have a story or two like this. That’s an issue Wakeling takes issue with. In the closing graph on his Kickstarter page, the artist concludes: “Small erosions such as this, and larger ones like the corporate-government crackdown of Occupy Wall Street, the persecution of activist Aaron Swartz, and the continuing grand jury of Wikileaks show to what levels the cancer of paranoia has spread.”

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