In October 2002 the artists Ben Langlands & Nikki Bell spent two weeks in Afghanistan carrying out research for a commission from the Imperial War Museum. Using a still and a digital video camera, Langlands and Bell recorded visits to, among other places, a murder trial in 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, where he lived for a brief period in the late 1990s.
Bin Laden's home was situated on a promontory overlooking a lake in the mountains west of Jalalabad and is now used as a base by a local Pashtun militia. Working with Tom Barker's V/SpaceLAB, Langlands and Bell used an interactive digital model to create a virtual exploration of the house and its surroundings.
Langlands & Bell were struck by the large number of donor agencies operating in Afghanistan. There are approximately 120 international NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations), UN agencies and 160 local Afghan NGOs based in Kabul. Langlands & Bell took photographs of the signs they place in the streets to advertise their presence and these images were shown as a slide sequence in the exhibition; in addition an animated film uses the acronyms of the NGOs in a series of graphic templates. Artwork derived from the digital animation of these acronyms and codes was also used for the design of the flags hung in the gallery and which flew from the Museum's flagpoles during the run of the exhibition.
Zardad's Dog was a short film edited from live footage that the artists shot at the trial of a notorious war commander in 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.
The exhibition was shown at the Imperial War Museum 10 April 2003 - 26 May 2003.
For more information on Langlands & Bell, visit http://www.langlandsandbell.com/