Jim Ricks first visited Afghanistan in 2013, with the “In Search of Truth” tour, a collaborative public art project with Ryan Alexiev and Hank Willis Thomas that has traveled the world. It is a video recording booth inside a giant inflatable and Afghans were invited to make a 2 minute video on “their truth”. Before making the trip, he dedicated himself to obtaining contacts, information and stories to enrich the experience. It is a country with a long history, rich culture, and friendly people of diverse ethnicities, but also plagued by the wars that have taken place in Afghanistan. Traveling as press, the “Truth” tour had more freedom compared to other foreigners in NGOs or the military, allowing greater contact with the realities of daily life in Afghanistan. Videos from this trip will be presented in the exhibition.
While there, he made a copy of Ed Rusch’s painting “LACMA on Fire” with a local artist named Najeebullah Najeeb. This piece was exhibited at the Hugh Lane museum in Dublin, Ireland. They continued in another ongoing body of collaborative work, paintings that explore the realities of living in extreme poverty and war versus the distant realities we live.
Afghan rugs originate from ancient Persian culture and now function as a social space in the daily life of Afghans, being used when visitors come to have tea, in restaurants, as a place to rest or to smoke sheesha. After many years of research on modern warfare and military surveillance footage, Ricks commissioned a family from northwestern Afghanistan to make a giant 5m x 3.5m carpet of military drones. The drone chart was found online, and was inspired by the “Friend or Foe” posters from the First and Second World Wars. While the real drones look at the earth and the people below, on these carpets, we look down at the drones… further contrasting the relationship between the culture of Afghanistan and the technology of war in the country. A technology that has caused the death of many innocent people. ‘War rugs’ began to appear throughout the 1980s in Afghanistan that featured military equipment, so this can be seen as an update of those as well.
The artist returned to Afghanistan in 2015, ended up being deported, spent time in Istanbul, and returned with a visa to collect the carpet. For this show, he created a collection of war rugs, archival materials, and a video that attempts to understand the limitations of a foreigner in the country, the astonishing diversity and history there, and to explore everyday life and the eccentricities that surround it. It is not a documentary, it is not an experimental film, rather it is a chaptered chronicle and a reflection on the fragile daily existence of Afghans.
In general, the artist’s goals are to complicate perceptions about the identity of the people of Afghanistan. He also challenges the simple definitions and preconceptions of the “Muslim world”. He sees that, given the fact that he is an American citizen and an artist, he has a responsibility to learn and support the people of Afghanistan and, in turn, share that. All relationships with producers are long-term. The show’s title comes from Leon Trotsky’s writings of 1919, on the subject of imperialism, national and colonial questions.
Jim Ricks is an American-born Irish conceptual artist. He received his education in equal parts: Montessori, activist, Jesuit, 90s graffiti, art school, and artist-run gallery. He currently lives and works in Mexico City.
He has had solo exhibitions at Daniela Elbahara (Mexico City), Casa Maauad (Mexico City), Pallas Projects (Dublin), Hugh Lane Gallery (Dublin), Onomatopee (Eindhoven), 126 (Galway); exhibited in various group exhibitions, including at the Center Culturel Irlandais (Paris), Imperial War Museum (London), Jack Shainman Gallery (NYC), The Limerick City Gallery of Art (Limerick), Ulster Museum (Belfast), Temple Bar Gallery & Studios (Dublin), Royal Hibernian Academy (Dublin); and public projects at the Galway International Arts Festival (Galway), Art Basel Miami Art Public (Miami), the Cranbrook Art Museum (Detroit), the Tamayo Museum (Mexico City), the Anahuacalli Museum (Mexico City), and the Hirshhorn Museum (Washington DC).