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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Post 9/11: Confiscated Objects Turned into Art

Posted By on Wed, Sep 7, 2011 at 1:40 PM

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In the weeks and months immediately following the tragic 9/11 terrorist attacks people were scared, really scared -- and they liked to share their fears with just about anyone who'd listen.

As a limo driver that would carry passengers to and from San Francisco's airport, Bay Area artist Michele Pred was often the recipient of these seemingly never-ending tales.

But it was those stories of anxiety and frustration passengers felt over heightened security and threats at airports that she turned into art, fueling Pred's exhibition, titled "Confiscated," at the Jack Fischer Gallery next week -- on the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks. 

Well, she did have to extract a few other ingredients aside from people's stories: Pred also collected more than 1,500 pounds of items that had been confiscated by TSA officials at SFO security checkpoints post 9/11, including knives, nail scissors, and lighters.

It wasn't easy. Pred had to lobby the airport for five months in 2002 before they let her take the confiscated items and turn them into huge pieces of art -- nine of which are now on display at the gallery.

"All the objects were stored in huge dumpsters and I'd come in with a shovel to get them," Pred says. She sorted them "very carefully, with very thick gloves" to set apart different types of items and different colors.

All these objects contain a feeling of a time capsule, especially those like single razor blades that are no longer common items in 2011.

But the items themselves are symbolic, Pred says, pointing out that it was seemingly overnight that regular travel items were now seen as potential weapons. It was a new loss of privacy for the sake of national security.

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"It's a very emotional experience to get searched, to give up something that's personal," Pred says. "People reacted to that even when they were willing to comply. These days, many people believe, as I do, that it's created a false sense of security."

If you are wondering what happened to your nail clippers, come check out Pred's work, which is on display at the Jack Fischer Gallery at 49 Geary, Suite 418 until October 8th. A reception is scheduled for Sept. 10 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. and an artist's talk on Sept. 17 at 4 p.m.

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Ellen Huet

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