Afganistan – Basin Building
Since 1978, even before the launch of Ocean Earth, the attitude towards Iran and Afghanistan was to organize the territory according to drainage into saltwater bodies. This was not entirely strange. That had already been mapped out by British geographers, published by Cambridge University Press. At that time, then earth-artist Dennis Oppenheim was asked to work with the Shah’s Army to build earthworks near the UN Environmental Park, and the ancient capital Persepolis, to revive wetlands…along bird flyways. Research was volunteered for Oppenheim. It led to surprising discoveries. This in turn led to meeting Iranian revolutionaries and Afghan tribal leaders. It seemed reasonable to make saltwater basins, in line with Jack Burnham’s writings on “saltworks”, a foundation for regional administration in that part of the world. So yes, long before the current mess.
Before the 1979 revolution, the meetings with revolutionaries in exile in New York centered on what could be done in the watersheds of SW Asia. Also, through work in the fishing industry, there were meetings with revolutionaries and tribal leaders from Afghanistan. There was even as recorded in video by Robert Polidori, some talking with the Iranian Embassy in Washington.
Time and again, attempts to exhibit such ideas were discouraged. On several occasions, notably in the New Museum show for those who lost their studio in 9/11 (Ocean Earth was one of them), any exhibition about these facts, or about geography at all, was forbidden. We now see the folly of State censorship and State attempts to manipulate the situation, always to some unknown advantage of “the West.” The reality of the region is not considered. Only a desire for dominance is considered.
Documents of the thinking extend way back to a Heute Kunst cover story, in 1979, on the prospects of earth art for areas like Iran and Afghanistan. But even Dennis Oppenheim, the intended beneficiary of such thinking, found it necessary in public to brush it off as some sort of fantasy. “After all”, he’d say, “artists need to maintain their place above all the politics.” Witness the result today.
Inattention to the realities of troubled regions can blow up in our face.
Here are some images from the past four decades: the first two are from 14 years ago; the third, from 26 years ago; the fourth, from 13 years ago. There were also two press conferences around such matters at the UN, sponsored by the US and Russian press agencies in the first case, and by the Turkish press in the second. The art world noticed, but generally said we had “gone too far.” One should leave such matters to US and Western “intelligence” agencies, who know better. Oh?
None of this work has yet to be taken seriously by anyone in “high culture,” amongst the Leisure Class of the US, and NATO, states that attempted to impose their Cold War mentality.
On behalf of a long-silenced Ocean Earth,
KORAN: YA SIN, 33-36
A Sign for them is the earth that is dead: We do give it life, and produce grain therefrom, of which you do eat. And We produce therein orchards with date palms and vines, and We cause springs to gush forth therein: That they may enjoy the fruits of this (artistry); it was not their hands that made this; will they not then give thanks.
Glory to Allah, Who created in pairs all things that the earth produces, as well as their own kind and other things of which they have no knowledge.