“Juxtaposition of two adjacent yet parallel scenes”
Filmed in 2013 at the Forward Operating Base Shawqat, Helmand province, where Alÿs was officially “embedded” with the UK military in Spring 2013 and in Herat in Western Afghanistan, where he was unofficially “embedded” with Taliban that same year. The films are played on a split screen and show two soldiers—one a member of the Western forces still occupying the country on the side of the official government and the other a Taliban anti-government fighter—as they take apart and reassemble their weapons, each in their own separate world.
While the British soldier is filmed standing up at a table outdoors in a military camp with trucks moving in the background, suggesting a complex and institutionalized world in which his actions are inscribed, the Taliban soldier sits on a rug dressed in traditional Pashtu attire. His gestures are smoother than his British counterpart’s, and there is a tighter mind/body alliance.