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Checked Baggage: 3264 Prohibited Items


Checked Baggage: 3264 Prohibited Items
Christien Meindertsma

322 pages
21 x 15 cm
One prohibited item supplied
ISBN: 9789080866416

In 2003, Christien Meindertsma bought 3,264 objects at auction in Amsterdam; they had been confiscated from a total of 600,000 travelers during the course of one week at Schiphol Airport baggage control in the Netherlands. Included in this unusual harvest were scissors, corkscrews, combs, penknives, toy guns, drawing compasses, razor blades, potato peelers, gardening tools, a bullet-shaped lighter, as well as any object that might in theory arouse fears of in-flight terrorist activity.

The sequence Checked Baggage consists of photographs of these objects, usually grouped according to kind, size or colour. The austere presentation, white background, diffused light and frontal view evoke illustrated commercial catalogues. Her straightforward yet strange still-life photographs document a process of police control in the context of an increasingly frantic, sometimes indeed hysterical, antiterrorist campaign. The subject-matter of these photographs includes used objects with the name of their previous owner engraved or attached to them, sharp objects providently wrapped with a view to preventing minor injury, gifts or souvenirs confiscated before they could be opened.

Meindertsma ridicules the strategies of anxiety relentlessly fostered by this practice in the minds of unsuspecting travelers with images which, through an apparent pop lightness, demythologise the powerful facade of contemporary antiterrorist paranoia. To achieve this goal, her photographs walk a thin line between the indexical, documentary use of the photograph and a glossy commercial rhetoric. The result is an enigmatic collection of everyday household objects assembled through the processes of control, public auction and photography.

In keeping with its content, Meindertsma’s hand-made book of the same title was itself designed to be potentially vulnerable to confiscation at some airport control, since each copy contains one of the “forbidden” objects.