Last Wednesday was the 15-year anniversary of the passage of the Patriot Act – an Act of Congress whose abbreviation (USA PATRIOT), expanded, describes, “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.” The Patriot Act was passed into law immediately following the terrorist attacks in the fall of 2001, without receiving much scrutiny. In hindsight of its passing, legislators began to realize the significance of the laws they put into place and how they could potentially subvert federal privacy laws. Since the tragedies of September 11, 2001, Congress has adopted quite a few new laws that many citizens feel interfere with the delicate balance between combating domestic terrorism and maintaining our own civil rights. To date, hundreds of American factions have attempted to pass resolutions against the Patriot Act, stating they will not comply with much or all of its restrictions.
One such restriction of the Patriot Act was the federalization and strengthening of airport screening. At the baggage claim of the San Francisco International Airport, travelers were greeted by conceptual artist, Michele Pred. Clothed in 1960’s-era flight attendant dress, Pred gifted tiny pocket knives reading, “Official Air Travel Replacement Knife” to departing commuters. The 2.25 inch knives Pred presented are the most common type of pocket knife confiscated by TSA officers. In regards to the chosen text, Pred stated in an interview with Hyperallergic: “The text that I had printed on them was intended as a somewhat humorous way of driving home the notion that our focus on security has not only taken things away from us, but has not clearly explained what it has given back.” Pred did receive a Free Speech and Expressive Activities Permit and permission from the airport after an extensive application process.
Her performance was an extension of a group exhibition through the FOR-SITE foundation in San Francisco, called Home Land Security. Her “Encirclement” installation features hundreds of confiscated items from airports arranged in a ring, intended to call attention to the small personal cost that comes with growing airport security. The exhibition is housed in the Presidio, a former military base overlooking the Bay area. Home Land Security brings together contemporary artists making work to reflect on the complexity of national security. The show will be on display through December 18, 2016.