This Is What You Were Born For- Mapping Afghan History
Inova Art Center Gallery, University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee
This Is What You Were Born For- Mapping Afghan History Installation Images and Detail Views
Click This Is What You Were Born For (PDF)- to download a PDF of the artist statement, installation description, and the twelve original graphic maps created for the exhibition.
I am currently completing the work for my MFA exhibition This Is What You Were Born For, a project mapping Afghan history from antiquity to the present.
Here is my statement about the work:
While postmodernism was preoccupied with relativizing historical transformations and contesting the lapses and prejudices of epistemological grand narratives, postcoloniality does the obverse, seeking instead to sublate and replace all grand narratives through new ethical demands on modes of historical interpretation.
from The Postcolonial Aftermath of Globalization and the Terrible Nearness of Distant Places
The work that comprises the project This Is What You Were Born For grew out of a desire to understand the history of Afghanistan beyond the terse or glib commentary found in the discourse of many major media outlets. As the Enwezor quote above suggests, there is an ethical responsibility demanded of historical interpretation when reflecting on the cultural legacy of colonialism and its aftermath. In this regard, Afghanistan raises some particularly difficult issues: which colonization, from what empire, in which era? Where do we begin unpacking and understanding the complex history of this land locked central Asian country? The history of Afghanistan is one of continued conquest and occupation, but more than that, the history of Afghanistan is the history of resistance to empire. This history also demonstrates the changing nature of empire and the increasingly diffuse nature of territorial conquest from antiquity to the present. One can see territory as an abstraction, and the act of mapping itself as an abstraction, yet in both instances this abstraction references a concrete reality that has influenced the contours of what we call present day Afghanistan.
For the exhibition I have created a series of twelve maps that I have rendered and layered on hand drawn light boxes, and have drawn in ink and graphite on paper that chart the successive invasions of the land now understood as the contemporary territorial boundaries of the country of Afghanistan. Each map is paired with text taken from Francisco Goya’s Disasters of War series of etchings creating a narrative that weaves through this fractious history. Within the overall installation Afghan history is charted through eras of territorial conquest by the various empires that have invaded and occupied the country from antiquity to the present exploring experimental cartographic forms that blur the boundaries of narrative and abstraction.
To view a PDF of the twelve graphic maps click here.
The work can be seen at the Inova/Arts Center Gallery from April 9th through April 24th as a part of the Peck School of the Arts MA/MFA Spring Thesis Exhibition II in Milwaukee, WI.
April 9-24, 2010
MA/MFA SPRING THESIS EXHIBITION II
Opening reception: Friday, April 9, 5-7 pm
Gallery talk: Tuesday, April 13, 4-6 pm
Here are a few preview photos of my Thesis exhibition “Words Are Not Enough” at the Inova Gallery on the UW-Milwaukee Campus.
Artist Statement: Words Are Not Enough
“With respect to the liberty of the signifieds of the image, the text has thus a repressive value and we can see that it is at this level that the morality and ideology of a society are above all invested.”
-Roland Barthes, Rhetoric of the Image
Our mediated world is an ever-shifting collage of competing voices, ideologies, and commercial interests that vie for attention in the larger social discourse. This fact is undisputable, but the overarching ideological construct of the mass media that these voices operate within is both exceedingly narrow and at the same time open to many possible interpretations. As an artist, one of my main points of investigation is the nature of the dialectical image, and how the strategy of collage creates or obscures meaning through the unification of heterogeneous materials in a work of art. The dialectical image is an image that brings together distinct worlds simultaneously to reveal a hidden truth.
The construction of meaning in the text of the media is a site of cultural struggle. This installation examines the text of the media by using mediated source material with a particular eye toward the language of overburdened signifiers and specifically loaded images and phrases. I have explored the notion of the dialectical image through a reworking of the text drawn from the mass media. By text, I do not mean solely the written word within these forms of mass communication, but also the meta-text of the larger ideological framework of the media as a cultural institution. Dialectically juxtaposing and reworking images, phrases, and video from our contemporary period and the historic cultural shift occurring in our country makes this notion of media as a site of cultural struggle all the more clear, while ultimately reinforcing the underlying ideology of our era. The act of appropriation from mediated sources begs the question of who owns the products of our mediated culture, and who controls the meanings they convey. The juxtaposition of these appropriated materials encourages a critical examination of the language of our mediated culture.