Above image from @a_hetherington.
Also shown at Futures Anthology alongside The Bush Bazaar video work, Royal Hibernian Academy, Dublin, November – December 2015:
Creative Centenaries, Ulster Museum, Belfast NI, June– September 2016:
Carpet Bombing is a handmade 3.5 x 5 m carpet. It was made in 2015 in rural Afghanistan by a single family. Commissioned by Rua Red. Huge thanks to Paul McAree and Amir Shah.
Note on the design: Originally designed by Ruben Pater (Amsterdam) for his project on drones, Drone Survival Guide. His work is under a Creative Commons license allowing for derivative works, although the designer was contacted directly and written permission was given. The changes that his design under went in order to become a new artwork by Jim Ricks were numerous, but mainly include: instead of being an informational chart it was now a large functioning rug which canplaced on the ground and be sat and walked on, that the crisp digital file was to be made into a hand knotted carpet and that this would result in a human interpretation and devolution, the Pashtu was corrected in some cases, the black border was added by the carpet makers, an intentional error in the carpet was added by the carpet makers as is the tradition, by fabricating the carpet in a traditional teqchnique, traditional materials were used which add depth, colour, texture, and smell, the title Carpet Bombing and the history of this military practice combined with image/medium create a powerful play on words, the singular experience I undertook and documented to create and retrieve the carpet, and most importantly by having the work hand madein Afghanistan which is home to this traditional craft of carpet making dating some thousands of years,a country which has a history of war rugs dating into the 1980's, and is aplace in which drones are used regularly for military purposes. The original purpose and commisioning was done by an art centre in South CountyDublin, Ireland and was for non-commercial purposes. Ricks's carpet has since been copied both with permission in Afghanistan and without permission in Pakistan.
The idea for this work stems from a long standing interest in carpets made in Iran, Afghanistan and the region. They are an important cultural and artistic tradition unique to this region. They also serve a social function. They are where people gather, to eat, to drink tea, to smoke shisha. Plus an interest in the shift in war reporting, and viewing, that began during the 1991 Iraq war. Namely, the publicly distributed aerial bombing footage, originally from so called 'Smart Bombs'. Today this video game like, blue, black and white footage has become common, and drones controlled from afar have replaced planes. The previously strictly military use of satellite photography is also now available to anyone with a smart phone or computer.
For me it is essential to display the carpet horizontally, as a carpet. That it can be walked and sat upon. For Carpet Bombing, this allows a parallel to the earth's observed surface by planes, satellites, and drones. The viewer can observe the drones from above.
Many people have asked my about Boetti's Afghan carpets and tapestries. I am of course aware of the work, but I do not see this as an inspiration. I believe his and my reasons were quite different, namely the political reasons: that I chose Afghanistan because drones are in use there.
A more direct source of inspiration are the Afghan War Rugs that began to proliferate during the 1980's war with the Soviet Union. These depicted weapons, bullets, tanks; showing both the intended targets of destruction and enshrining the tools to do so. Later, after 9/11, the carpets began to have images of the Twin Towers, and went through numerous changes and alterations, like the inclusion of US and Afghan flags with a dove lain over them. It turns out these revisions use military psyops leaflets as source material. Check out this article for a good overview.
It was these historical phenomenon, combined with previous works, the play on words title, and a personal obsession with these aerial bombing images that led to the production of Carpet Bombing.
The original graphic design of the 'Drone Survival Guide' was intended as a practical, socially engaged design ideally for regions where drones are in use and was made by Dutch designer Ruben Pater. The design is an organised visual collection of publicly available information on drones in use by militaries around the world. It was done in the style of World War I and II 'friend or foe' airplane identification charts. This seemed a great echo of the 9/11 war carpets inspired by military leaflets.
In terms of the political 'point' of Carpet Bombing, I have left it intentionally ambiguous. There are numerous cases of innocent civilians being killed as they carry on their daily lives by these craft. Yet, the opposition to the foreign military presence in Afghanistan is limited. I witnessed a wide approval of the US in particular. The presence of Kabul's market The Bush Bazaar is an anecdotal, yet effective example. The US aided the USSR's defeat, removed the Taliban from power, and indirectly brought money and jobs with its post 9/11 role. It was also related to me that the Pakistani locals in Waziristan (not the militants) quite like US drones because they kill the outsiders who have turned their villages into terrorist encampments. But this remains a hidden opinion, because it's not the approved Pakistani version of events. In this sense the Carpet Bombing is not necessarily a symbol of protest that can be read from the sky, but a monumentalising, like with the War Rugs, of drones and there ability to 'remove' destabilising insurgents as well.
And finally, having traveled two times to Afghanistan, it is clear that the reality of Afghan's views are somewhere far more complex than is thought on the outside. Perhaps this work can help convey that.