Terminal Air

The Institute for Applied Autonomy, exhibited at Plymouth Arts Centre, 23 — 31 March 2007, commissioned as part of Social Hacking.


Terminal Air is an interactive mapping website and installation to document the American CIA’s practice of “extraordinary rendition” flights. The term extraordinary rendition describes the now common practice of using secret airplanes to transport suspected terrorists to secret ‘dark’ prisons in foreign countries, where they can be interrogated and tortured outside the reach of international human rights conventions. Since 2001, CIA-operated airplanes have been stopping in several European countries, including the United Kingdom, for service and refuelling during extraordinary rendition flights. Although officials in these countries have so far denied knowledge of this practice, a recent European Commission report suggests that there has been substantial cooperation between European leaders and their American counterparts. Thanks to a network of plane enthusiasts, many of these planes have been identified by their serial numbers and can be tracked as the move between airports.

In the installation, IAA present an imagined CIA travel office from which the programme is organised. On the wall, two video monitors display an animated map of the world showing the movements of the 30+ known CIA planes during that last 5 years. Periodically, the telephones ring and a voice message announces the arrival or departure of a known CIA plane as it lands or takes off from one of the many CIA friendly airports world-wide. Posters on the wall advertise the services of the various “front-companies” that the CIA uses (eg. “Premiere Executive Transport”) and the locations that they provide travel to (Syria, Afghanistan, Cuba, etc.).