Friday, August 08, 2008

Traditional Coney Sideshow For Modern Times

Image courtesy of NY Times
click image to see behind the scenes shot (courtesy of Reuters)

A few weeks ago the World's Smallest Woman came and left Coney Island almost unnoticed. This week a new kind of sideshow appears at Coney Island. A sideshow and thrill ride for the mind and not so much for the body. Steve Powers who says he has installed many works at Coney Island brings us a honky tonk version of animatronics in tradition with the toilet vomiting man already a fixture here. This time the mechanical figures simulate an interrogation procedure known as waterboarding. A practice used by the US government in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on alleged terrorists in what looks like a creepy torture chamber.
Image above courtesy of wallyg (
The New York Times writes:

In interrupting a day at the beach with scenes of the United States government’s rougher practices, Mr. Powers is being deliberately provocative. “What’s more obscene,” he asks, “the official position that waterboarding is not torture, or our official position that it’s a thrill ride?”

The installation which has made national news and has spread like wild fire all over the internet looks, from the outside of W. 12th Street next to the Sideshow by the Seashore, like an empty storefront with one set of barred windows and a drawing of Sponge-Bob being tortured and exclaiming, "It don't Gitmo better!". You feed a dollar into a slot and the lights come on and the mechanical figures one tied on a slab and blindfolded is getting water poured down his nose while the black hooded interrogator administers the torturing.

Sure, a bit on the macabre side for a family attraction but this is Coney Island. And these are the kinds of bizarre oddities and alternative way of thinking that Coney has been always about. Not to say that Coney is about displaying negative emotions - on the contrary. But creative work and fun small time attractions from artistic and passionate individuals is what has always made up that Coney character around here.

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