Mosque made out of salt bricks in Pakistan’s Khewra salt mine.
BRING OUT YOUR DEAD is a visual-audio exhibit that seeks to create dialogue over the effects of the United State’s drone warfare practices in Pakistan (a country it is not by any official declaration at war with) through the lens of Michel Foucault’s biopolitics to increase awareness about the numerous innocent lives lost in part of the states alleged ‘war on terror.’
The exhibit will be in place from April 9th-12th at the CAP GALLERY (HNES 283, 4700 Keele Street York University) with a special opening event on Tuesday April 9th at 7:00pm. We encourage you and yours to witness the exhibit and contribute to conscious dialogue amongst other visitors and the artists, both through words and with the mediums provided.
The exhibit will include transparent life size sculptures complimented by light, projection, shadow, and sound together creating a multi-medium experience. The transparent nature of the sculptures contributes to the meaning of the piece in the way that the loss of these lives has been made invisible, and only through the reflection of the surrounding is there an adequate lens from which we can observe the extent of devastation, and the cruel intent supporting its continuation.
It is suggested that what symbolizes a states sovereignty is its right to declare war, also described as the “…right to kill.” (Mbembe 2003:6) While the actual count of civilian death is contested, the covert ‘targeted’ overhead drone killing conducted by the United States since 2002 (escalated in 2008 under President Barack Obama’s administration) through the states ‘unofficial’ drone warfare program has resulted in the loss of over 3000 lives without justification, or recourse. (Marsden 2013:2)
Are the methods and morale behind what is nothing short of a “…lethal game of toy story,” (Marsden 2013:2) not best summarized in Foucault’s notion of biopolitics? By continuing to conduct illegal killings through the practice of drone warfare despite international legal criticism is the United States administration implying that some lives are more important than others?
As developed by Michel Foucault in ‘Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975–76,’ biopolitics refers to the moral philosophy that some lives are more valuable than others, more specifically determining those who must live and those who must die. (Mbembe 2003: 6) We are living right now to witness the crux of a neoliberal capitalist system, with insatiable greed for resources being the precursor for pre-emptive war, mass murder, and the destruction of the lives and livelihood of ‘Other’ bodies, mostly non-white Muslim bodies, bodies when killed referred to by the White House as ‘bugsplat’ (Marsden 2013:2).
This extremely controversial practice has been the focus of critique by a number of international human rights groups and experts including UN special rapporteur on human rights Ben Emmerson (Marsden 2013:2). Drone warfare has violated international law, lead to the loss of innocent lives, devastated and destroyed landscapes and livelihoods (IHRCRC 2012), and as some researchers would suggest, done very little to counter ‘terrorism,’ and in effect is increasing the number of individuals who seek to actively resist America’s bombing of their communities and destruction of their infrastructure and land, rendering them ‘terrorists’ by U.S. administration standards. (Boyle 2013: 2)
As activists, artists, and academics, some of us with roots and family in Pakistan, we seek to use our positions to create an exhibit that draws urgent attention to the national state of insecurity and devastation Pakistanis, particularly those living in North Waziristan, are facing under the shadows of drones and an ironically popular American President. As artists and people that believe in the power of art, we feel that art is an influential tool for representing and building awareness around social struggle. Art has a way of provoking emotion, and beyond positive or negative response, it moves people. Art also can and has been a means of bridging the realities of the subjugated, disadvantaged, poor, ‘Other’, with the lives of the dominant, privileged, and wealthy.
Art can be used to express dissent, to strengthen solidarity, to highlight social ills, to memorialize histories, and to bridge social, mental, and spiritual distance.
Our objective is to incite dialogue within and amongst the audience, and lend voice and space to the bodies and families of those murdered through acts of terror conducted in the name of ‘keeping America safe’. Deeply inspired by Michel Foucault’s biopolitics, the phrase ‘Who Must Die So That We Can Live’ in combination with an informed reflection of the impact of U.S. drone strikes on North Waziristan, Pakistan, we seek to create an exhibit to highlight the systematic loss and destruction of lives through acts of terror that aim to keep ‘some’ bodies safe at the ‘expense’ of ‘Others.’
The intention of this piece is to provoke the audience to answer the following question through their experience of the installation that; by continuing to conduct illegal killings in the practice of drone warfare despite international legal criticism is the United States administration implying that some lives are more important than others? This piece will convey the invisibility behind which devastation is occurring, and the sentiment that the loss of these lives whom have been made to be undetectable through strategic media coverage will no longer remain so, and are ‘coming out’ in an act to expose truth.
The skeletons will no longer be complacent in the closet.