Brooklyn-based Debi Cornwall is a conceptual documentary artist who marries empathy and dark humor with systemic critique while interrogating American state power in the post-9/11 era. Cornwall’s methodology requires exhaustive research and sensitive negotiation for access to unavailable sites and collaboration with reticent, often traumatized subjects. Her work often takes on the shape of books as she employs layers of seemingly disparate materials, jarringly juxtaposed—photographs of disorienting, ambiguous spaces, objects, and portraits; archival material; and first-person texts—to disrupt assumptions, build meaning, and provoke inquiry. Her recent project, “Welcome to Camp America,” employs vivid, unexpected images from Guantánamo Bay, its gift shops, and its growing global diaspora, along with once-classified archival material and first-person texts, to question America’s response to 9/11.
(Excerpt and images below selected from grant proposal. All works are copyright of the artist.)