Noor Behram Gaming in Waziristan Explores Photographic evidence
The exhibition, Gaming in Waziristan is a new show curated by the Beaconsfield gallery. It delivers a cultural context in which to debate the issues raised by documentary photographs. Noor Behram has hurried to the site of drone strikes in his native Waziristan. His purpose: to photograph and document the impact of missiles controlled by a joystick thousands of miles away, on US air force bases in Nevada and elsewhere. The drones are America’s weapon of choice for hunting al-Qaida and the Taliban, in what is supposed to be the most dangerous place in the world. Sometimes arriving on the scene just minutes after the explosion, Behram first has to put his camera aside and start digging through the debris to see if there are any survivors. It’s dangerous, unpleasant work. The drones frequently hit the same place again, a few minutes after the first strike, so looking for the injured is risky. There are other dangers too, militants and locals are suspicious of anyone with a camera. Noor Behram, Documents from the Front-line, 2007-2011 is a cache of hitherto unseen images taken by a local journalist in the tribal regions of Pakistan reveal the unequal human cost of remotely controlled war machines. This photography exhibition illustrates what is discribed as innocent civilians killed by U.S. drone missile strikes in Pakistan’s tribal region along the Afghan border. U.S. officials do not publicly acknowledge the CIA’s covert drone program, but they have said privately that the strikes harm very few innocents and are key to weakening al-Qaida and other militants. Noor Behram says his painstaking work has uncovered an important and unreported truth about the US drone campaign in Pakistan’s tribal region. The artist is showing that far more civilians are being injured or dying than the Americans and Pakistanis admit. The world’s media quickly reports on how many militants were killed in each strike. But reporters don’t go to the spot, relying on unnamed Pakistani intelligence officials. Noor Behram believes you have to go to the spot to figure out whether those killed were really extremists or ordinary people living in Waziristan. And he’s in no doubt.he jagged terrain, the often isolated location of strikes, curfews and the presence of Taliban, all mean that it is a major challenge to get to the site of a drone strike. Noor Behram has managed to reach 60, in both North and South Waziristan, in which he estimates more than 600 people were killed.
An exhibition of his work, at London’s Beaconsfield gallery features pictures from 27 different drone strikes. Clive Stafford Smith, head of Reprieve, the campaigning group, has launched a lawsuit along with a Pakistani lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, seeking to bring to justice those responsible for civilian deaths from drones. “I think these pictures are deeply important evidence,” said Stafford Smith. “They put a human face [on the drone strike campaign] that is in marked contrast to what the US is suggesting its operators in Nevada and elsewhere are doing. “They show the reality of ordinary people being killed and losing their homes, not senior al-Qaida members.” The programme of drone strikes was ramped up under the Obama administration. Last year saw the greatest number of attacks, 118, while there have been 45 so far in 2011, according to a tally kept by the New America Foundation, a thinktank based in Washington.Gaming in Waziristan, an exhibition including images of the aftermath of drone strikes in North Waziristan,
Butler Brothers, The Ethical Governor, 2010 Butler Brothers employ the codes and aesthetics of 3D animation to provide a satirical critique of Western capitalism and its imperialist imperatives. Courtesy John Butler. Nooshin Farhid, Conic Studies, 2010 Farhid sifts through information-overload to construct elusive collages of moving image, alluding to the structures of power. The Conic Studies series prefigures Conic Trilogy, Fahrid’s major video work engaging with the apparatus of war: to be screened 6 September–16 October, 2011. Courtesy Nooshin Fahrid and the Agency
Beaconsfield, 22 Newport Street, London SE11 6AY Visit Exhibition