Abu Ghraib coffee table

Abu Ghraib Coffee Table, by Phillip Toledano, from "America: The Gift Shop." Moulded resin, plexiglass, 6', 2008. Related: the work of Allen Jones. (Thanks, Susannah Breslin)


  1. How about you guys create a special paypal account, and everybody chip in and buy one for ole’ Georgie (or any other War Criminal in power of your choice) and have it sent to him.

  2. Yeah, I get it that this is some kind of protest art, but it’s about three years too late.

    Also, what kind of low-rent coffee table uses plexiglas?

  3. Ths s rlly n vry pr tst. dn’t thnk t s fnny t ll. “H. H. gy gttng trtrd s cff tbl. Wht ht!.” r y ppl rtrdd r wht?

    Yr whl spghtt-mnstr-knttd-t-czy bzrr prdct thng s knd f gttng trsm t.

    t stppd bng ct nd fnny whl g.

  4. #4- “We know you have many choices in the field of blog-entertainment; we thank you for choosing, um, someone else.”

  5. #3 — Actually, this must be a direct reference to the work of pop artist Allen Jones (do a google image search of his name and you get the picture). His work predated Clockwork Orange and was a huge influence for the interior design of the Korova Milk Bar in question.

    And of course, #4, it’s utterly tasteless, but surely by design and not by mistake.

  6. It’s not intended to be funny. I think people should read the prospectus at the beginning of the site (http://www.americathegiftshop.com/#/start) and see all of the work in context before getting offended.

    I mean… it *is* offensive… in that it’s intended to make us ask ourselves exactly *what* are we offended by. It isn’t mere “shock value” work, though.

  7. #6:tasteless by design or not, it’s still nasty. I can just imagine some party, sitting around this table. “Look at this table, a guy getting tortured! Isn’t that funny and so massively hip!” No it isn’t. It’s just stupid and the sense of humor is kind of ugly. Where’s the joke? I don’t get it. I really don’t see anything funny about those events.

    But if you don’t agree with me, that’s okay. I obviously have too much time on my hands to bother posting on this at all.

    #5:I’m complaining about Boingboing because I like a lot of their stuff, I think they have done a lot of interesting, funny, and important blogging. That’s why I care.

  8. Part of the point of the pieces is that torture has been sanctioned and even trivialized by our government. It has practically been brought to the level of coffee tables and bobble-head dolls. It is expressing the reality of the situation in a physical way.

    Frankly I really believe that the monsters that mastermind these kinds of things would actually find it amusing if they were to find these things under the tree Christmas morning. They have no regard for common people and believe we are worth less than dirt.

  9. One complicating factor in any hysteria surrounding this piece is that it’s not actually a real human. There’s still a difference, and it has nothing to do with hipness.

    Art and design are supposed to contain jokes. Who knew?

    That said, this piece reminds me of the dinner scene in “Bloodsucking Freaks.”

  10. as the artist who created this, i’d just like to throw in my 2cents

    this is part of a great body of work, entitled AMERICA THE GIFT SHOP-the idea is: If american foreign policy had a gift shop, what would it sell?

    the point is to remind us of the last 8 years, in the hopes of not repeating the same mistakes again..and yes, it’s tasteless, but so is torture

    have a look at the site, read the artist’s statement, and then feel free to comment

  11. I also (like #6) read this piece as a commentary on the tables/items you can get with a naked woman in a similar position.

    As in, we recognize this as dehumanizing and gross; why isn’t the naked-woman item the same?

  12. By “monsters that mastermind these kinds of things” I mean those who mastermind the torture & Gitmo & so on, not the art pieces. Sorry!

    As for it being a moot point- oh no, it’s still going on. It’s going to get worse, and it’s going to happen on American soil.

  13. h bh!! “thy pt bg vr my hd s cldn’t s nd thn thy md m wlk rnd nkd”

    ws ‘trtrd’ mr n my frtrnty dys.

    t lst w ddn’t ct ff thr hds wth Rmb knf n TV nd dmp th bds n th strts. Tht’s wht thy d t r cptrd.

    Y ppl shld rmmbr wht prt f hmnty y r tryng t dfnd whn y sy wht ‘mnstrs’ w r fr b Ghrb

  14. ah come on Wareagle, that’s not all that was done. What about the waterboarding? You’re not going to try to defend that one, right? No way, the U.S. does just as bad torture and brainwashing as any other nation. We might not dump our dead in the streets but they get knocked off just the same. Some of the torture might get farmed out but there’s no way that the U.S. isn’t just as guilty in that and a hundred other ways.

  15. In the pic, imagine a spilled over bag of bad apples instead of a bottle and glasses.

    Hey all, beware the parody trolls, they’ve arrived. For those with real complaints, the free ice cream is apparently in poor taste?

  16. yesyes i know, i’m just being extreme. and Abu Ghraib was a really bad deal.

    i just have no sympathy for terrorist. they want us all dead.

  17. @ Chris Farrell

    I think you might be taking this out of context. Did you see the rest of the ‘Gift Shop’ web site? When seen amongst the other ‘gift’ items, the table is obviously a political/social statement and not seriously a piece of furniture. I’d be very surprised that most Boing Boing readers would consider having a party around such a piece.

    (I said ‘most’ because I am aware there are incredibly creepy/disturbed people in any and every circle :P)

  18. @WAREAGLE, how about guys who just happened to be fighting soldiers from outside their country? If a bunch of foreigners showed up outside your house would you fight them and expect to be called a soldier, or would you prefer to be branded a terrorist?

    Not everyone who is fighting american (or other western) forces in the middle east should be classified automatically as a terrorist. Sure, these guys who drive trucks loaded with dynamite into hotels are terrorists and vile, but not everyone should be labelled the same way. It’s time to talk, otherwise all we’ll ever do is kill each other.

  19. It needs a companion piece: a coat rack made to look like a GI with a truncheon/taser.

    And maybe a German Sheppard ottoman.

    And WWII prisoners as corner caddies for the shower…

    \The possibilities for military shock art are phenomenal

  20. #4 – This table is probably not for you. Personally, if I had access to mannequins and were an artist, I would probably come up with something a bit less tasteful.

    PhilT – Bitch’n. I’d be proud to break up a bag of weed on your table at a party. Someone got me a sweatshirt from the L.A. Coroner’s gift shop, which I still think is funny.

  21. Two points, WarEagle: First of all, not everyone who gets tortured is a terrorist. The US has been torturing people who have been fingered by unreliable narcs, relayed by scarcely any more reliable local security services, and even bystanders caught up in random sweeps, delivered to the tender mercies of people who can’t distinguish one brown skin from another. People just like you. Both ways.

    Secondly, torture is worthless as an interrogation technique, and — especially in the absence of anything like judicial oversight — evil. There’s no other word for it. Torture is something only the bad guys do. If you do it, you become the bad guy. Are those head-cutter-offers admirable in any way? Then why do you want to emulate them?

    It’s one thing to jump off a cliff just because the cool kids are doing it, but you want to jump off a cliff because the kids you don’t like are doing it? What’s wrong with you?

  22. One thing to keep in mind when you say that the prisoners had it coming is the fact that 90% of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib were released without being charged. Which means that 90% of the time, the “terrorists” were just innocent locals that we converted into enemies.

  23. @24 I see your point. But what I don’t see is Al Qaeda or any other group fighting american/western forces waiting for us at some peace talk table. not sure what kind of talking you could ever expect in a situation like this. its a fight that’s been going on since the 7th century.

    and its brought out the absolute worst in mankind!

    1. its a fight that’s been going on since the 7th century.

      You mean back when Christianity was using military force to obliterate every other culture/religion?

  24. Umm, chris farrell & WarEagle?

    Here ya go:


    If you run out let me know and I’d be happy to make more of those as needed. Thanks.

  25. LILORFNANNIE@1: Somehow I think bushco would not get the artist’s intent and actually get off on having something like this for all of the wrong reasons, as any torture-promoting, innocent-killing fascist vampire despot would.

    The idea that furniture supporting leisure activity points directly to being predicated upon the tortured backs of others would probably give those who have inverted our society to said aims a perverse thrill.

    Don’t get me wrong. I am not knocking the piece. I am just pointing out that the artist’s point of protest would probably be missed by those at the top of the pyramid, and they might like it secretly, while publicly eschewing it.

    Definitely some hard-core punk rock art, and judging from the discussions sparked here alone, meeting it’s goal of being provocative and promoting public discourse, which is one of the goals of real art.

    To those trying to turn this thread into a pulpit for their apologistic punditry of the current administration’s policies, please try to remember that THERE IS NEVER ANY JUSTIFICATION FOR TORTURE. EVER! Those who seek to redefine it for their own purposes are the worst kind of lying shit-bags. If we resort to the basest of methodologies, then what separates us from those we oppose? I wish the fundamentalists would get this, which is part of the central message of Christ that seems to be lost on them. He didn’t say: turn the other cheek so you can more effectively waterboard the “enemy.”

  26. for something that may not even be a political statement about Abu Ghraib this has sure created quite the stirr, look at the breasts i think this may have just been shock art depicting a female S&M particepant

  27. for something that may not even be a political statement about Abu Ghraib

    Than why did the artist name it that way?

  28. Phikus- I agree with you.

    Excepting, you are painting “Fundamentalists” with a very, very broad brush there and I rather resent it. Not that I would call myself a “fundamentalist”- it would really depend on how that is defined. But to equate fundamentalist Christians with hypocritical people who condone torture for people they don’t like- no, that’s not fair at all.

  29. Thing is Gord (of the House of Gord) has been doing this for a while, and way sexier. But he treats the ladies with safety, respect, and courtesy, while he does such things with them. He also gets them into much more interesting creations, they seem to enjoy it so much they keep coming back for more and more.

  30. LILORFNANNIE@36: You are right. I should have qualified that as “evangelical and other fundamentalist groups who support the neo-con agenda of a war against Islam and a regimen of torture as an acceptable method of attaining their goals in the name of their rigidly defined beliefs.” I did not mean to offend. Will that work for you?

    Really I believe those at the top are duping those who meet that definition into supporting their position so that they can greedily strip resources and wealth from other sovereign nations, while profiteering from the whole process at the expense of the rest of us. These societal vampires do not truly believe what they espouse, which is why I made that distinction. If every Christian would agree not to kill in the name of the Lord, they would not have any base of approval with which to be able to continue to pull off their exploits. This is the only reason I believe that the neo-cons continue to purport a “pro-life” agenda and thump the bible whenever possible, while in nearly every instance going against the tenets laid down in the scripture like charity, tolerance and forgiveness.

    The US wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about the Middle East if it weren’t “floating on a sea of oil.” This is not the new crusade, now matter how hard the neo-cons try to frame it as such. I did an art piece called Neo-Con-Men that explores this very theme.

  31. i guess i didnt realize that the table was titled by the artist, i thought that was the title of the post my mistake, but still almost seams as if the artis took a black bag, plexi glass, and a manakin and thought why not push some buttons

  32. Eh, c’mon. It’s a one-liner, bad art, and I doubt effectual as protest. My opinion: he’s pandering to sentiment in a nearly shameful way.

  33. The New Yorker has an article covering the experiences of some of the Military Police stationed at Abu Ghraib. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/03/24/080324fa_fact_gourevitch?currentPage=all

    The guy with the bag over his head as depicted here, they called Gilligan, and he was actually one of the better treated prisoners. The wires, the bag, all of that, was actually a one time thing, and according to the MP, he knew that he was in no danger and called the MPs on their bluff. He became one of their favorite prisoners and was allowed to help out around the Prison with delivering meals, etc.

    It’s one of those cases in which the imagery in the photo, of a strange almost Christ like figure elicits a stronger response than the treatment deserved. There were prisoners treated much worse than Gilligan, even one killed, and several left in stress positions for days on end, but because of the power of the photo, Gilligan has become iconic.

  34. Y dts:
    dn’t cr wht ny f y thnk. wnt bck, rd th rtsts sttmnt, nd nw gt t. t’s nt mnt t b sm knd f jk. t’s mnt s sm knd f “sttmnt f prtst” r thr bllsht. Wht’s t rlly s s cmpltly wrthlss nd snn ttmpt t mk bck. t dsn’t qlfy s sttmnt, t dsn’t qlfy s rt. t’s cmpltly wrthlss nd nt wrth my tm.

  35. CHRIS FARRELL@51: “…It’s completely worthless and not worth my time.”

    For something not worth your time, you certainly have spent a lot of time bitching about it instead of simply hitting your spacebar. I think you have demonstrated exactly what an idiot is. Thanks.

    Btw, wave goodbye to your vowels, son.

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