The Mountains of Majeed is a reflection
on the end of 'Operation Enduring Freedom' in Afghanistan through
photography, found imagery and Taliban poetry. Edmund Clark
examines the experience of the vast majority of military personnel
and contractors who have serviced Enduring Freedom without ever
engaging the enemy. He distils their war down to a concise series
of photographs of the two views they have of Afghanistan: what they
see of the country over the walls or through the wire of their
bases, and what they see of pictorial representations within the
enclaves that they never leave.
At Bagram Airfield, the largest American base in
Afghanistan, and formerly home to 40,000, the view, both outside
and inside, is dominated by the mountains of the Hindu Kush. Set
against their looming presence, Clark's photographs from his time
spent embedded with the U.S. military, expose the dystopian
relationship between the man-made landscape of Bagram and the
country beyond its walls.
Evoking the intangible, yet intensely felt
presence of the mountains beyond, and the unseen insurgents they
hide, Clark's quiet and contemplative images portray an alternative
narrative to the one ordinarily presented by the media.
Clark's photographs capture the visual mirroring
of the distant views within the base. Echoes of the surrounding
landscape are found in the craters formed by construction work,
peaks of refuse-strewn razor wire and the precisely ordered vistas
of military tents.
Inside the buildings of the base, the landscape
is simulated by murals and artworks, representing another view of
Afghanistan. On the walls of a dining facility, a series of
paintings signed by an artist named 'Majeed' project a
romantic vision of its lush mountain passes and lakes. Reflecting
on the significance of the paintings' location on an American base,
Clark says:"How many tens of thousands of pairs of western eyes
have registered the pastoral peace of these mountainscapes? Has
anyone considered what they say of the country they are playing a
part in occupying?"
In this exhibition, Majeed's paintings have been
reproduced as a series of picture postcards. Likening them to
mementos for souvenir hunters of an idealized touristic landscape,
Clark's appropriation of the paintings offers a powerful reminder
that the mountains remain out of Western reach.
"There is distance between these mountains.
Vistas of tranquillity fabricated by hand from canvas, wood and
paint. Images from an enclave captured in high resolution by the
latest digital technology. Two cultures divided by landscape and time.
Ever present mountains forever beyond boots confined for a
duration, within walls of occupation, on a ground of gravel and
tarmac. And there is convergence. Both are mountains of the
imagination. Both are representations of enduring freedom; and in
both the mountains belong to Majeed." - Edmund Clark