Entries Tagged 'AFGHANISTAN' ↓

on interpreting the 9/11 memorial carpets

Lendon War Rugs

This flamboyant example will mean I have to update my account at Rugs of War here.

Anti-Soviet Realism

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In late 1989 the last troops of the Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan had left after a decade of resistance by the various forces of the mujihadeen. During this period of time one finds an extraordinary profusion of visual media opposing the Soviet occupation. Contradictions abound in the visual record of this unhappy decade. The non-traditional narrative carpets of this period constitute a form of indigenous modernism which occurs independent of other modes of contemporary visual art occurring elsewhere in the world. However the rug shown here is an exception to the rule. One of only two known examples, each of which differs slightly from the other, this remarkable image is clearly derived from the Socialist Realist style of the post-WW2 era, in a complex pictorial montage which depicts the heroic resistance of the mujahideen against the military might of Soviet heavy armour.

What makes the this carpet so unusual, and surprising, is the way it breaks with (almost) all the conventions of carpet tradition. It is proof (if we needed convincing) that carpet weavers could indeed “make anything.” Its design is familiar to a Western modernist eye insofar as it deliberately combines a number of models of representation in a mode of simultaneity – not unlike its 20th century precursors of cubist collage and photomontage. The production of an explicitly “Western” representation in celebration of the defeat of the Soviets makes another kind of claim for modernity – or rather, for a modernity that is not dependent on the exercise of Soviet military power. Continue reading →

Was Alighiero Boetti the last Orientalist?

Hopefully, yes. In the text below you’ll find me proposing that the work of the late Alighiero Boetti should be recognised as a contemporary form of Orientalist practice, despite all the protestations to the contrary. And further, that the surge of biographical and curatorial activity of the last few years – culminating in Boetti’s recent retrospectives at the Museo Reina Sophia, the Tate Modern, and the MoMA, another at the Fowler, and soon another at MAXXI – has produced its own form of a contemporary Orientalist discourse. This has been achieved in the Boetti literature through strategies of denial and negation which have amplified and exaggerated the artist’s original avant-gardist postures. This is posited through a strategy of inversion: the artist’s own denial of agency is set against the retrospective claims now made for his refugee camp workers’ “co-creative” “relational” “collaboration” in the production of his embroidered works. So suggests Mark Godfrey, his most recent biographer, and the Tate Modern curator of his retrospective. To the contrary, I argue that his workers’ anonymous, abstracted, and mystified representations, both in the work and in the literature, is but the latest manifestation of a contemporary orientalism.

Sceptical? Listen to this: “Ali Ghiero, the Bedouin in transit, camped next to the Pantheon” – exemplifies how the latest blurb from MAXXI has (even further) mythologised/orientalised his practice. See here.

ALIGHIERO BOETTI ORIENTALIST

In recent years biographers, curators, and followers of the late Italian Arte Povera artist Alighiero Boetti have gone out of their way to deny the orientalist character of his work – in favour, even, of presenting him as a prophet of globalism. And yet although Tate Modern’s Mark Godfrey at one point recognises the inherent idealisation in Boetti’s engagement throughout the 1970s with his Afghan “Others”, he also remains convinced that, for Boetti, “Afghanistan should be understood neither as some “other” place untouched by Western civilisation nor as a culture somehow under-developed or ahistorical.”[1]  How can such contradictory views be reconciled? Despite all the evidence to the contrary, including Boetti’s opposition to the modernisation of Afghanistan and his problematic “relationship” with his outsourced workers in the refugee camps of Pakistan, in his recent biography Godfrey asserts his mode of production was evidence of Boetti’s  “determination… [not to] represent them… the peoples he met… as an exotic other.” Such are the twists and turns of the logic of denial and inversion in the Boetti story.

Art History 101 teaches us that Orientalist Art is characterised by analysis of the representation of “exotic” Others and the conditions of their presentation and reception in the Euro-American West. The consequences for an understanding of the historical context of the colonialist relations between ‘the West’ and its ‘Eastern’ subjects places such art in its wider socio-political context. So it goes, in university classrooms around the world.

Continue reading →

emaj goes live

Artist unknown, Hazara people, prayer stone cover (mohr posh), 1965 -1975, embroidery (silk or mercerised cotton on cotton) 28 x 28cm, Max Allen collection, Canada. (photograph Max Allen)

Emaj is the only Australian online refereed art history journal. Its latest issue includes contributions by Helen Hughes, Keith Broadfoot, Roberta Crisci-Richardson, Darren Jorgensen, Danni Zuvela, Chris Adams plus your iconophile. Its editorial panel is Nicholas Croggon, Jane Eckett, Justine Grace, Katrina Grant, Helen Hughes, Tim Ould, and Francis Plagne.

My essay “A tournament of shadows: Alighiero Boetti, the myth of influence, and a contemporary orientalism” may be accessed here.

Retro Futuristic European Colonialisation

Now there’s a mouthful! The author “Chus Martinez”, asks “why Afghanistan?” “why Boetti?” and “why Morandi?” in relation to dOCUMENTA 13, in quite some detail…

photohistory

What makes this a contender for one of the most significant photographs of the twentieth century? Taken in Kandahar by Peter Jouvenal in 1996, this fragment of a film clip is (I find) absorbing on so many levels. It depicts the Mullah Omah enacting a religious ceremony – one that was to have huge consequences for the fin de siecle. Sometimes a photograph is significant simply for its value as evidence, and sometimes because it participates in the historical moment in a way that is itself significant. In this case, its non-material character – as streaming video – is but another development in the nature of photography itself. You can read the full story over at rugsofwar

 

Tariq Ali: get out now

Argued here. And if we get out now what are the consequences?

Life before Death: Michael Yon in Laskar Gah in 2008

Great work…

The Great Game

Nobody knows just when a board game titled “Safe Travel through Afghanistan” was invented. Most likely, it was some time in the 60s or 70s, when it was safe to travel in Afghanistan.  Not earlier, given the presence of the Ariana Boeing 727 in the center of the image. Nevertheless, here it is, reproduced in the form of a carpet, probably made in the last few years.

Perhaps it was some mad spirit of ironic optimism that caused this to be transformed into a furry picture?  Or some lost-in-translation lack of understanding of the contemporary implications of the original graphic? Whatever, it certainly confuses one’s understanding of the emblematic use of the map of Afghanistan in all its other different political contexts. No matter what was its makers’ intent, iconophilia here shares it with you (wherever you may be) in our well-intentioned and peaceful tradition of greetings for the festive season…

(and thanks to Rob Little for the photograph).

art without artists

…not the way Anton Vidokle writes about it in e-flux. Or the fascination with the Outsider/Insider. If you’re still with me, see here for those who are simply anonymous.