NEW YORK – Guantanamo waterboarding as a Coney Island sideshow — that's what one political-minded artist has created on the Brooklyn seashore.
The "Waterboard Thrill Ride," by Steve Powers, is a stone's throw from Coney Island's famed Cyclone roller coaster and Nathan's hot dog stand.
For a dollar, visitors get to look through a barred window on a Guantanamo-like interrogation, enacted by animated robots. The hooded figure leans over a man in an orange jumpsuit, his face covered with a towel and his body tethered to a tilted plane.
Lights come on and water pours into the man's nose and mouth, producing convulsions for 15 seconds.
The display sits in the midst of Brooklyn's decaying entertainment mecca, the perennial object of redevelopment battles. A sign on the outside pictures SpongeBob SquarePants saying "It don't GITMO better!" as Squidward, another character in the SpongeBob cartoons, pours water over him.
Powers says his aim is to provoke people into thinking about the interrogation technique, which simulates the feeling of drowning and is denounced by critics as a form of torture.
"Robot waterboarding became a way of exploring the issue without doing any harm," he told The New York Times. "It's putting a unique experience on the table. And it doesn't take a great leap of the imagination to look in there and say: 'That's really what's going on? That's crazy.'"
On Aug. 15, Powers says he and a few other men plan to subject themselves to the real thing: They'll have themselves waterboarded by a professional trained in interrogation techniques.
The sideshow will then be moved to Manhattan's Park Avenue Armory, to be displayed with other projects from Democracy in America, an exhibit series sponsored by the public art fund Creative Time.