Page last updated at 11:11 GMT, Friday, 8 August 2008 12:11 UK

SpongeBob in NY torture sideshow

Spongebob Squarepants
SpongeBob SquarePants made its debut in 1999 on Nickleodeon

Children's cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants is being used as part of an art installation to protest against water-boarding as a form of torture.

The Water-boarding Thrill Ride by artist Steve Powers has been installed at Coney Island theme park in New York.

A sign on the outside shows SpongeBob saying "It don't Gitmo better!" - a reference to Guantanamo Bay - as another character pours water over him.

The US has admitted using the simulated drowning method on terrorism suspects.

For one dollar (50p), visitors get to look through a barred window at a Guantanamo-like interrogation, enacted by animated robots.

A hooded figure leans over a man in an orange jumpsuit, whose face is covered with a towel and his body tethered to a tilted plane.


Lights then come on and water pours into the man's nose and mouth, producing convulsions for 15 seconds.

Powers says his aim is to provoke people into thinking about the interrogation technique, which simulates the feeling of drowning and is denounced by human rights groups as a form of torture.

"Robot water-boarding 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.'"

Marion Tracey, 57, from New Jersey, said she found the installation disturbing and made her think of her father who had nightmares after returning from World War II.

"In all wars, horrible things happen - I'd rather not see it," she said.

Alex Soto, 23, said he thought it was a good thing for people to learn about water-boarding, but added: "It is pretty twisted."

Powers says he plans to subject himself to water-boarding by a professional trained in interrogation techniques later this month.

The installation will then be moved to Manhattan's Park Avenue Armoury.

Getting to know SpongeBob
19 Nov 04 |  Entertainment
Q&A: Water-boarding
09 Mar 08 |  Americas
US 'may' use waterboarding again
06 Feb 08 |  Americas
CIA admits waterboarding inmates
05 Feb 08 |  Americas

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