An exhibition featuring an interactive digital model allowing a virtual exploration of the former home of Osama bin Laden opens to the public at the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Wednesday 10 December 2003. The model is one of six works by British artists Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell on show in Langlands & Bell: The House of Osama Bin Laden over the next two months. All of the works are the result of a two-week visit to Afghanistan in October 2002 on a research commission for the Imperial War Museum, London.
Using a still and a digital video camera, Langlands & Bell recorded visits to ISAF HQ (the multi-national task force in Kabul led by the Turks at that time), the American airbase at Bagram, a murder trial at the Supreme Court in Kabul, the site of the statues of Buddha at Bamyan that were destroyed by the Taliban, and, after a long and dangerous journey, the former home of Osama bin Laden at Daruntah, west of Jalalabad, where he lived for a brief period in the late 1990s.
In The House of Osama Bin Laden, 2002, viewers can navigate through whitewashed rooms, store cupboards and bunkers and even gaze out of the windows at the surrounding countryside. While bearing testimony to bin Ladenís absence, it also serves as a reminder of his forbidding presence in the Westsí collective consciousness.
On arriving in Afghanistan Langlands & Bell were immediately struck by the large number of NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations), UN and other donor agencies operating in the country and began taking photographs of the signs they place in the streets to advertise their presence. These images are being shown as a slide sequence in the exhibitions alongside an animated film using the acronyms of the NGOs in a series of graphic templates.
Zardadís Dog (2003) is a short film edited from live footage that the artists shot at the trial of a notorious war commander at the Supreme Court in Kabul. In this extraordinary piece, justice does battle with evil in scenes that seem to have come straight from Biblical times.
Ben Langlands (born London 1955) and Nikki Bell (born London 1959) have been collaborating since 1978, and exhibiting internationally since the early 1980s. Based in London, they create works which explore the complex web of relationships linking people and architecture.
Langlands & Bell examine our experience of architecture, and our primarily urban culture, on many different levels, exploring the places and structures we inhabit, and the routes that penetrate and link them. Their work looks at real buildings and the ways we think about them, revealing their histories and associated human activity.
Major exhibitions of the work of Langlands & Bell include: Serpentine Gallery, London, 1996; Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Germany, 1996; Architecture as Metaphor, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1997; Venice Biennale, 1997; Sensation, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1997; Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, 1998 and Brooklyn Museum, New York, 1999; Frozen Sky, Centre for Contemporary Art Kitakyushu, Japan, 1997; TN Probe, Tokyo, 1998; Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, 1998; Yale Center for British Art, New Have CT., US, 1999; The Central House of The Artist Moscow 2000; Turner Studio Residency Exhibition, Petworth House, Petworth, UK, 2002; The House of Osama bin Laden, Imperial War Museum, London, 2003; Henry Urbach Architecture, New York.
The exhibition is commissioned by the Imperial War Museum, London, and is curated by Angela Weight, its Keeper of the Department of Arts. It is organised in collaboration with IMMA.
An exhibition of large-format photographs by Belfast-born artist Paul Seawright created in response to his recent travels in Afghanistan, also commissioned by the Imperial War Museum, has been on show at IMMA from 18 September to 30 November 2003.
still from The House of Osama Bin Laden, courtesy Langlands & Bell.
Photo: David Prudames.
Cpopyright 24 Hour Museum.