critical writing + text-based projects
“How Do You See the Disappeared? A Warm Database” (2019)
Looking back at the intentions and legacy of our 2004 project for Rhizome’s history of net art in 100 projects, with Chitra Ganesh and Michael Connor. Online and excerpted in The Art Happens Here: Net Art Anthology (Rhizome, 2019).
“Shahrazade in the Archives: A Testimony from Fragments” (2017)
Adaptation of a talk on What We Left Unfinished, the responsibilities of artists in times of war, and the political dangers of nostalgia, in Critical Writing Ensembles (Mousse, 2017).
“Salon-e-Girdbad / Salon of the Whirlwind” (2015)
Critical reflection on the lost and forgotten histories of literary salons in Afghanistan in Utopian Pulse: Flares in the Darkroom (Pluto Press, 2015).
Notes from a boycott (2014) / “52 Weeks and Engaging by Disengaging” (2015)
Essay on the Gulf Labor campaign ’52 Weeks’ commissioned for Manifesta Journal 18. Published in November 2014, and reprinted in Shangri-La: Imagined Cities, 2014. Expanded and revised version written in collaboration with Haig Aivazian appeared in The Gulf: High Culture, Hard Labor (OR Books, 2015) and was reprinted in Assuming Boycott: Resistance, Agency, and Cultural Production (OR Books, 2017).
Field Notes for What we left unfinished (2013)
An essay written for Ibraaz Platform 006 as part of the research process for my project about unfinished films and unfinished political projects in Afghanistan. Reprinted in an expanded version (as “What we left unfinished: the artist and the archive”) with a second dispatch on the radical archive in Dissonant Archives: Contemporary Visual Culture and Contested Narratives in the Middle East (IB Tauris, 2015).
Parable of the Garden (2013)
An essay on the present condition and future possibilities of Afghanistan, commissioned by Creative Time Reports and co-published (as “Afghan Bloom”) by Foreign Policy in October 2013. Reprinted in Artists on the News: Selections from Creative Time Reports, 2012-2017 (Creative Time & Paper Chase Press, 2019).
The Islands of Evasion (2013)
Some notes on the politics and poetics of International Art English, published by Triple Canopy in June 2013. Reprinted in Social Medium: Artists Writing 2000-2015 (Paper Monument, 2016) and International Art English (Triple Canopy, 2018).
Filming the Many Afghanistans (2013)
Essay about the jeshn films in the first batch of films digitized from the Afghan Films archive during the digitization project launched by myself and Pad.ma during dOCUMENTA (13). Commissioned by Creative Time Reports and co-published by the New York Review of Books blog in January 2013; republished by Art Asia Pacific online in April 2013 and HIVE in April 2014.
The House of Histories (2012)
An essay about the 1996 film The House of History, directed by longtime Afghan Films cameraman Qader Taheri, and including footage filmed by eight different Afghan Films cameramen between 1991 and 1996. Written for the Asian Pacific American Institute’s Making the Memory Sacred blog during my year as a Visiting Scholar at A/P/A.
Afghanistan: A Lexicon (2011)
A non-linear, speculative history of 20th-century Afghanistan told through definitions of 71 terms, most paired with original or archival images. Co-authored with anthropologist Ashraf Ghani for dOCUMENTA (13)’s 100 Notes, 100 Thoughts series, published as a 48-page book in a 2500-copy print run / unlimited e-book run by Hatje Cantz in spring 2011. (The print book is currently out of print but the e-book is still available.) A series of excerpts from the Lexicon was published on the New York Review of Books blog in September 2012 (as “Palace of Abandoned Dreams”) and a series of prints has also been produced, based on selected entries from the Lexicon.
Introduction to an Index (2011)
Collaborative text and print project with Chitra Ganesh, commissioned from Index of the Disappeared for the 30th anniversary issue of the Radical History Review. Presents a condensed history of the Index archive and research through layered and annotated images constructed from materials in the archive.
The Trespassers: FAQ, Notes, Interview, Transcripts (2011)
Includes an interview with Chitra Ganesh for the Sharjah Biennial X catalogue, source notes for the documents used in the Trespassers video, English-language transcripts of all the portions of documents ‘read’ onscreen by the magnifying glass in the video and translated offscreen by the Arabic and Dari translators, and an FAQ presented in the installation.
Bidoun Questionnaire (2009)
Questionnaire sent by Bidoun, editors of the Sharjah Biennial 9 catalogue project (three books in total), to artists in the Provisions for the Future exhibition, several months before we produced our projects. Erin and I describe our goals for the new video that SB9 commissioned in alternating blue (EEK) and green (MG) handwriting. This version was published along with a partial shooting script in the first Provisions catalogue, which focuses on the production process.
New World Borders (2008)
Essay and “corrective redaction” project commissioned from Index of the Disappeared as a contribution to the newspaper Common Possibility, produced for the exhibition How to Talk About Utopia Without Saying Utopia (a project by Anthony Marcellini + Matthew David Rana) and distributed in San Francisco in April 2008.
Kabul: Constitutions: Annotated Guide to the Interactive Map (2008)
A 21-page text that serves as a guide to both the web-based and installation versions of the interactive map that is the heart of the project Kabul: Constitutions. A booklet with this text and photographs of the installation process by Rick Vogels was produced by Gemak when the Kabul project was exhibited there in February 2008.
Afghanistan: Between the Tiger and the Precipice (2007)
“News-collage” article commissioned for the 25th anniversary issue of FUSE, Cultural Change in Real Terms.
Divining the Question: An Unscientific Methodology for the Collection of Warm Data (2006)
Essay written for issue Viralzerosix of Viralnet, the online journal published by the Center for Integrated Media at CalArts.
Updated version with excerpts from Points of Proof postcards and Polaroids prepared for the Conversation Pieces exhibition reader in 2009.
Unwritten Histories and the Digital Divide: On Critics, Archives and Networks (2005)
Excerpts from an IM roundtable with Jeanette Ingberman (Exit Art), Richard Rinehart (Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive, CIAO, Archiving the Avant-Garde), Beth Rosenberg (Eyebeam Atelier), and Martha Wilson (Franklin Furnace Archives), July 2005. Moderated by Mariam Ghani for Arts + Leisure, a tabloid newspaper on art, criticality and complaint, published by e-flux and Art in General. A longer selection of excerpts from the roundtable appears here than in the published text.
Towards a Visual Language of Resistance: Notes on the Disappeared (2004)
Collaborative text with Chitra Ganesh for Bare Acts: The Sarai Reader 05; reprinted in different versions in Pavilion #10-11, Samar #19, and the Journal of Aesthetics & Protest #4.