Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Friday, January 27, 2012
Sunday, January 15, 2012
In early January, I traveled to Kabul to begin a project with with Noah Coburn, my good friend and Williams classmate, who has researched and written extensively about Afghanistan. The focus of our work is Bagram, site of one of the primary military airbases as well as archeological artifacts and features going back to Alexander the Great. Bagram is home to mixed ethnic groups, nominally at peace, but whose uneasiness and mistrust of foreigners and one another speaks about the condition of the country.
For a week, Noah and I toured the area and with the help of translators did a series of interviews of local people about their lives in Bagram and their relationship to the US presence. The images and content will be developed into a talk and exhibition at Skidmore College on February 20, 2012.
The northeast side of Bagram where long stretches of open road hugged the mountains.
A view of the Korean hospital, inside the security barriers of Bagram airbase. Note the old Russian troop transport on the left side.
One of the interview participants who claimed to favor American presence, despite disagreement from the other elders with him.
"Repair your mud walls today!"
A former government office and hotel in Istalif, not far from Bagram, which was torn apart by rocket blasts.
The Bagram room in the National Museum, where artifacts previously on tour have not been returned to for display.
Posted by Gregory Thielker at 12:35 PM
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Friday, September 9, 2011
Friday, July 15, 2011
I spend the whole month on the road; the road is like my home. We transport tomatoes and vegetables from one side and coal and tea leaf from other side. We drink tea and eat little food to avoid sleepiness. I feel good when we are driving, especially if we are carrying fresh food. This is because we are given extra time to transport the food and if we transport within the time period we get 4,5 thousands extra. I feel good knowing that even though I am a driver now, I may own a truck in the future.
- - Pargat Singh, 32, truck driver
Posted by Gregory Thielker at 12:20 PM
Monday, June 6, 2011
Once upon a time when Sher Shah Suri was going on his horse, and saw a tiger (sher) was drinking water from Murhar River. So he thought of making a city and to build a bridge on the river. He named the city as Shirhati. I am from that area; it is 70km back near to this road.
- -Ashok Kumar, 49, policeman
Posted by Gregory Thielker at 11:55 AM
Monday, May 23, 2011
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
During this trip, just 300km (Togli border) back there was a donkey lying on the road and so many vehicles had gone on top of that...flesh was everywhere on the road. See, this is our daily income; we can’t do any other work except this. But obviously we feel very sad, even if an animal died. Now there are many modern vehicles running on the new road. Previously it took around 15 day to go up and down but now it reduced to 6 days. But there isn’t any more profit for us. Now our profit is fixed, previously it was open; whatever a driver needed was always given by the owner. But now it’s Rs 10,000 for everything, our food, toll tax, transport commission, labour, two drivers, etc. So it is like non-stop, night follows day... yes, we just stop to cook for ourselves. We cook both of our lunch and dinner at a time. By cooking ourselves we can manage the whole trip for around Rs 600.00 for food, but outside it is like Rs 250 (3 persons) for one meal.
Raju Sayad, 30, Raju Tiwari 35.
Posted by Gregory Thielker at 11:00 AM
Monday, February 14, 2011
What was your impression when you knew that this is going to be your new home?
How we feel? Oh, we feel good. If my brother sees that we are going somewhere then it will be good only. Yes, obviously there were some changes here since we moved.
If there are no children then will you feel good to stay here?
If there were no children, then why would we come here? There would be no meaning to it.
-Women gossiping in Chimbramau
|Chimbramau, trucks loading and unloading|
|New housing developments being built outside the town.|
Chimbramau spread further from the road than other towns before it- and included a large housing development I saw when leaving the town. Shops lined the Grand Trunk Road and after talking with a few women in back street, I asked to be taken to a school. The women with whom I had just spoken described how important moving to this area had been for their children. The school I visited was set next to a motorbike shop, but was 3 stories and I found all of the children on the roof of the school. Classes were separated into different corners, and the children were excited to see a foreigner. I came downstairs to speak with the principal and several teachers including two sisters. The sisters seemed happier to be talking together, although the younger of the two did most of the talking.
|Teachers, Preeti and Sarita Rathore (center and right)|
Tell me about this road
This is the first Indian road, which was made by Sher Shah Suri. Also the longest one.
What have been the changes you have noticed since your childhood?
What is nothing?
Yes, some places it has changed, like road nearest areas. Not any villages. But within this last one area many places has changed a lot.
Because the council chairman belongs to this area.
Anything you want to tell people about this area?
Lots of joint families stay here, and they have plenty of love for each other. The biggest thing is, people don’t fight each other in the name of religion. Recently there was a Muslim marriage, and they have printed separate invitation card for Hindu. Also they have arranged a separate party for Hindus.
- Preeti and Sarita Rathore, sisters, teachers
|An empty classroom (classes were held on the roof)|
This interview actually was one of the more fluid ones in several days despite the sparcity of the transcript. I should point out that while doing these interviews with the help of Raj, nearly everyone agreed to speak with us and asked for nothing in return. Their answers were often puzzling, contradictory, and hesitant but also occasionally forthcoming and unguarded.
Later, I wondered about the sisters’ answers. Here again, we heard that nothing had changed in recent years, or changes had only affected the town closest to the Grand Trunk Road. This must have been true to a degree; villages just outside this road were unlikely to receive any benefit such as commerce, transport, manufacturing- all of which seemed to active in Chimbramau. But their comments about the marriage parties highlighted a compassionate gesture in the community by creating two separate parties for a marriage. Much of the area around the Grand Trunk Road had a high percentage of Muslims, another result of the continuous traffic on road for hundreds of years. Religions spread along it, and Islam gained a foothold in northwest India along this pathway. Further down the road, I would stop in cities like Allahbad and Mughal Sarai.
Outside of Chimbramau, I met with a group of people who were living in tents next to the road. They were "Lohar" or ironworkers. Tools were scattered on the ground and a small forge built out of cow dung occupied the middle of the tent. Again, I felt conspicuous taking photographs- especially at the beginning of a conversation. The matron of the home invited Raj, my assistant, and me inside of the tent and we sat on our heels to speak with her. She seemed to be very comfortable us, and began to speak at length, calling us “Lallah” (a familiar term).
Tell us about this road:
What should we know about this road? If we poor people get some space near road, we will cook and eat. If we stay in rural area, we don’t earn sufficient to survive. Here, these trolleys, buses and other people come to us. Some comes with their cutter, rod, etc...That’s how we survive.
Don’t you fear to stay at roadside?
Yes, we do feel a lot, but what can we do? Three, four years back my child got bellow a trolley. Then I treat him. He had three factures in his leg. Previously we are staying in villages nearby, but it was difficult to survive there. That’s why we come near to road. We just want a land near the road to build a house. And my children to grow up, I know we will not get lands for farming. See Lallah, never have we wanted to take anything from anyone, only we give, we just love everyone. We will never make enemies in any condition. See, we are staying in huts and anything can be happen here, you know, at any moment.
Don’t you have fear at night?
Some times, we are not able to sleep at night at road side. Day before yesterday’s night one of our cows died here. It costs four, five thousands rupees. (90 – 110 dollars).- Iron lady, 45 years old.
Posted by Gregory Thielker at 2:13 PM
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Two group exhibitions in the Washington, DC area are opening next week.
"Drive By" at Project 4 Gallery is based on the theme of moving through different environments. Works will include "Vortex", "Transference", and "Until now", which are available for sale. Contact email@example.com for details.
February 5 to March 5, 2011, Reception: February 5, 6:30pm to 9:30pm.
Project 4 Gallery
Project 4 Gallery
1353 U Street NW, 3rd floor, Washington DC 20009
tel: 202 232 4340
|Transference 2010 oil on linen 36 x 48 inches|
|Until now 2010 oil on linen 36 x 48 inches|
At the Arlington Art Center, "On the road" will focus on different means of producing artwork outside of the normal studio context. I will show new paintings and drawings from the site-specific project in Norway. See my previous posts about this work here and here.
“On the road”
February 5 to March 5, 2011, Reception: February, 4, 7 - 9 PM
Arlington Art Center
3550 Wilson Blvd, Arlington VA 22201
|15 km Gamle Strynfjellsveg 2010 oil on aluminum 8 x 12 inches|
Posted by Gregory Thielker at 6:04 AM
Saturday, January 22, 2011
|Dark drawings 2011 colored pencil on bristol 8 x 12 inches|
In El Zonte, I was struck by the extinguishing strength of night time. Perhaps, this was due to the contrast with the nights in Delhi, where lights, dust, and pollution keep the city in a perpetual black-yellow haze after dark. In El Salvador, the few streetlights or outdoor bulbs created islands of illumination with deep shadows.
I began to draw these points at which the light seemed to drop off- and shadows could be both shallow or deep spaces. Each view is paired with an object I collected at the scene, often these were minimally visible, but a piece of the site I drew nonetheless.
Like other artists at the residency, I also wanted to work with some of the natural materials of the coast. The black volcanic sand seemed like a visually interesting, but unpredictable choice of material. At some times it seemed to absorb light and crumble like charcoal, at other times it reflected light like mica flecks in granite. I mixed white glue with water and applied it with brushes and then worked in sections, alternately painting on the glue, dropping sand, and then shaking off the sand, so the image slowly revealed itself.
|Fighters 2011 volcanic sand on canvas 36 x 49 inches|
This image is a popular newspaper photograph from the El Salvador civil war, which lasted from 1979 - 1992. At our open house at the end of January, people who saw the drawing were able to decipher a great deal - somewhat to my surprise given that its a pretty minimal image. As I was told, the image shows rebel groups returning from a small battle. They are identifiable as rebel guerrillas from the conflict because of the presence of a woman fighter and because of her white shirt (government soldiers were exclusively men and dress in camouflage uniforms). Newspapers during the war showed fighting that people in El Salvador experienced sometimes firsthand, but often heard in the distance or read about from other parts of the country. I was curious how the reports of the war seemed both tangible but also disjointed for people living in the country during the war. Images of women fighters were a special surprise. Visiting the country now, evidence of the war is less obvious and conversations revealed a hesitancy to talk about the war and an impulse to forget its atrocities.
Posted by Gregory Thielker at 7:58 PM
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Friday, January 7, 2011
|View from La Peniscola|
Just after New Year's eve, I arrived at a residency in El Salvador. Hybrid Art Projects, run by Camila Sol, invited 12 international artists. The site overlooks the Pacific Ocean (and provided the rare seasonal occurrence of sunrise and sunset out of and into the ocean) in the costal area of El Zonte, close to La Libertad. It would provide a spectacular backdrop for artmaking.
|Along Route 2|
|Coming back from dinner- papusas, naturally.|
Posted by Gregory Thielker at 6:26 AM
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
|NH 91 road marker|
Over the course of the journey, I find a number of markers that reappear day after day. Small buildings and towns seem to line to road with good consistency- and farmland stretches out on either side. Based upon the route's history, I expected to find towns and cities clustered along it with some regularity. The concept of the "journey" or "journee" (one day's travel by foot) would lead me to think that the towns might appear every 20 kilometers, or with open areas between built up sections.
|The "English" liquor shop was a common site.|
In reality, houses and small towns are more evenly dispersed. With the development of the highway in the past several years, even more people have moved closer to the road. There are occasional distance markers, which usually reference the next major city. Overhead metal signs are more rare and distances seem approximate. I spoke with several people who mentioned distances in kos, an ancient measurement of about 2 kilometers. The road's measurement has changed again and again, as has the speed at which it has been traveled. What equated for one day's journey in the past has grown exponentially. Actually, this isn't entirely true since I have seen plenty of ox or camel carts on the road moving at one a few kilometers per hour. The drivers were often asleep in the cart, with the animal leading the way.
|Toyota Innova and camel.|
As I saw in France, large trees also mark the roadway. These provide shade- and also have been allowed to grow uninterrupted because of their proximity to the road and not in the middle of viable farmland. When I stopped to take walks, I could see these tall broad trees from a distance.
Every few hours of driving, I would see the remains of an accident. More often than not, these involved "Leyland" or transport trucks . The trucks travel day and night and several people mentioned the threat these trucks pose to other drivers or people along the road. I have been curious to talk with these drivers because of their frequent experience with the roads- they are the most frequent travelers, but also spend the least amount of time in a single place.
|Accident on NH 91 involving Leyland.|
Posted by Gregory Thielker at 6:50 AM