(Un)governed Spaces in Afghanistan


Drawing, installation, painting

(Un)governed Spaces in Afghanistan

Past: September 6 → 26, 2013

In this exhibition composed of oil paintings, installation, and handmade books, the artist Gregory Thielker collaborated with anthropologist, Noah Coburn, to create a complex portrait of Afghanistan today.

As international troops begin to withdraw, the situation on the ground is anything but predictable. This exhibition focuses on the landscape of the Shomali Plain, at the center of which is the US military base at Bagram. Here, a rich history of military occupation and conflict has created a crossroads of past and present. Traces of foreign intervention from Alexander the Great to Soviet Occupation to Taliban and finally, current US military and contractors comingle in the geographic features and local attitudes of this of the area.

The grisaille paintings are slow and meticulous renderings of different views of the region. In these images, based on on-site sketches and photographs, the sense of the past is tangible and yet also hidden from view. A burnt out government office, the walls of the Bagram airbase, and a Hellenic vase discovered nearby each tell different stories about the region. The fractured, yet intact surfaces reveal the damage and resilience caused by ceaseless warfare. A resolute beauty can be found in the way that life continues despite the instability and memory of trauma.

This exhibition is the result of site visits to the area over the course of the last two years. Mr. Thielker and Dr. Coburn toured the region without bodyguards or military oversight, and were able to get intimate access to locations and local people surrounding the base. This exhibit is a powerful contrast to the predictable narratives of Afghanistan because it combines anthropology and art to create a layered and open-ended presentation of life amid conflict.

Gregory Thielker lives and works in New Jersey, USA, as well as abroad. His previous work includes a Fulbright grant on the Grand Trunk Road in India as well as site projects in El Salvador and Norway. His work has been exhibited internationally and has been reviewed in The Independent, La Repubblica, and The Washington Post. He is an assistant professor of art at The College of New Jersey.

Noah Coburn is a Professor of Anthropology at Bennington College, in Vermont, with many years research experience in Afghanistan, and is the author of “Bazar Politics: Power and Pottery in an Afghan Market Town”.

  • Opening Friday, September 6, 2013 at 6 PM
03 Le Marais Zoom in 03 Le Marais Zoom out

38, rue Notre Dame de Nazareth

75003 Paris


Strasbourg Saint-Denis

Opening hours

Tuesday – Saturday, 2 PM – 7 PM
Other times by appointment

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Venue schedule

The artist