Mariam Ghani

Kabul 2, 3, 4
Going, Going, Gone

Kabul 2, 3, 4

Kabul 2, 3, 4 is a three-channel video (each video RT 13:00, color, stereo) usually presented as three vertically stacked monitors, and presented here as a three-in-one channel five-minute excerpt. It was filmed in 2002 (bottom channel), 2003 (center channel), and 2004 (top channel) and finished in 2007. Kabul 2, 3, 4 developed from a simple plan: to track the visible reconstructions undergone by the city during the period of post-conflict intervention by driving through the city once each year and recording that drive on video. I put this plan into practice in December 2002, December 2003, and October 2004. Three years later, I went back to the footage from these three years of filming, and shaped it into a three-channel installation where each channel represents one year and my annual trajectories are, as far as possible, lined up so that they run parallel courses through the city, allowing viewers to see the same places simultaneously in three different stages of their reconstructions.

The city's transformations (as well as the remnants of its past that remained untouched) can thus be traced across time and space. The simple passage of the camera was often able to register the near-seismic upheavals of a city in the grip of rapid and radical change. The influx of more than two million returned refugees; the skyrocketing values of real estate; the growth of a parallel economy serving international aid workers, along with the bunker mentality that crept across their neighborhoods, blocking off ever more roads from the camera's eye as it went; the political cycles of idealism and disillusionment that produced billboards, monuments, graffiti, and riots—all of these were reflected on the surface of the city.

Kabul 2, 3, 4 was also part of the larger project Kabul: Partial Reconstructions (2002–2007,, which documented particular moments in the social and political reconstructions of the city through video, interactive installation, web, and public dialogue performance projects.

Kabul 2, 3, 4 from Mariam Ghani on Vimeo.

Going, Going, Gone

Going, Going, Gone (2009, RT 4:25, color, stereo) is a fugue on empty space in New York: abandoned “warehoused” buildings, foreclosed houses, empty lots circled by chain-link fences, schools being demolished, condos going begging, stores holding perpetual sales, restaurants going out of business, and all the other signs of the dreams of plenty collapsing—composed of photographs shot and sound bites aired on TV and radio news in fall 2009. It was originally produced for public projections in Berlin and Amsterdam as part of a series of commissioned works about borders, commemorating the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Because the piece was intended for projection on a series of different urban screens with different conditions (some with sound, some without; in one case looping for a week in a place full of habitual commuters, in another screened just once), I decided to make a video that would on one level fit in with the surrounding environment of print and video ads, and on another level playfully subvert their codes and messages. So I photographed quite a lot of signage, but in various states of degradation or framed within larger architectural/ spatial contexts. I also wanted to produce a video with many, many quick cuts and internal loops-with-differences, so that the commuters faced with endless loops would be able to find something new in repeat viewings, and a video that read quite differently viewed with or without sound, for those who might encounter it on two different types of urban screen. So in each loop you see the same sequence of more than 300 images, patterned so that you see four images for five frames each, then one image (the key shot) for 20 frames, then four, then one again, and so on. But in each loop the pattern is shifted so that the key shots, the only shots onscreen long enough to be “read” as information, are different.

Each loop is also juxtaposed with a new set of audio samples. The shift in focus and change in soundtrack are intended to suggest three different ways to interpret the same set of images. The flip-flip-flip-flip-pause rhythm, combined with the sources and editing of the audio samples, echo the effect of the “seek” button on a car radio, flipping through multiple takes on the news of the day. Without the audio, the video functions as a rush of impressions that rewards repeated viewings with accretion of information and connections. With the audio, the video acquires an additional framework that allows for a single viewing to distill at least some of the content and context.

The theme of the new economic “border” and those left on the wrong side of it can be located primarily in the counterpoint between image and sound—as I collected and choreographed the material, a theme began to emerge: the ever-widening gap between New York’s rich and poor, speculators and squatters, homeless and holders of home loans. The title of the video is a riff on Marie Menken’s Go! Go! Go! (1962–1964), an ode to New York City animated from single frames of film, and a sign commonly seen in the windows of United States stores during clearance sales.

Going Going Gone from VFC_Berlin on Vimeo.

Print        Back to Top