How do you express the anger and frustration of a people who feel they are not heard, when expression itself is meant to be heard by someone?
Chapter 3: Harsh Paradise | The Enemies Project
Voices of Kashmir
Harsh Paradise was the first set of works I created after returning from doing fieldwork for the Enemies Project. These works were a large scale, site-specific projection pieces that were installed around the city of Austin in locations that are typically unseen or unnoticed. The point of the project was to explore the feelings that the Kashmiris have that their voices are unheard in the world. They feel isolated and alone, occupied and powerless. I projected their photographs onto an unseen urban landscape – mirroring the way that they feel in the world of international geopolitics.
In Kashmir the Enemies Project transformed dramatically. Here, I finally lost my desire to directly document my actions in the project. In Dharamsala I had been forced to abandon the goal of bringing people together from opposite sides of the conflict. In Kashmir, the project became more complex and much more dark. Immediately on arriving I was introduced to people who took me to meet former militants and Kashmiri pro-independence leaders. Sitting astride the India-Pakistan border, Kashmir’s recent history is a tragedy of Machiavellian complexity. On being freed from colonial rule, the land was split between two powerful countries and since that time the Kashmiri people have suffered a series of wars and terrorism that was both forced on them and locally grown.
Shortly into my stay in Kashmir I was informed by a friend that I was being followed by the Indian Intelligence. I wan’t surprised, but I had to restrict my blogging greatly so I did not risk being thrown out of the country. My experience there was both beautiful and heart-breaking. Nowhere more than Kashmir did my effort to blur the boundary between art and life become more poignant. The stories I heard and things I saw laid a foundation for a minor case of PTSD when I returned to the U.S. I went through several months of therapy before I was ready to start making works from this part of the project. The idea of directly documenting the people I met seemed entirely inadequate. I could not look at the photographs I had taken for five months.