Mariam Ghani: What We Left Unfinished


Researcher of Afghan descent Mariam Ghani (b. 1978, New York) started her project What We Left Unfinished in 2014. One of its stages was supported by Garage as part of the Field Research program.

For over five years, the artist has been working at the Afghan National Film Archive to uncover and reconstruct lost or partially preserved film projects that were never completed due to the political and social turbulence in the country.

Raw footage, fragments of films, forgotten pictures, and other archival materials gathered by Ghani shed light on the dramatic events surrounding Afghanistan’s Communist Party (later the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan), which came to power after the Saur Revolution of 1978. The reforms that followed the revolution led to radical changes in the country’s policies and influenced Afghanistan’s development for many years to come. Ghani sees this period as unfinished and unreflected, and therefore still haunting. Juxtaposing footage discovered in the archives with documentation of the filming process and filmmakers’ interviews, the artist highlights the rift between fiction and reality, between the dream and the failure of the Afghan communist project.

Ghani’s research in Russia focused on the image of the Afghan war that was constructed cinematically for the Soviet people—and the way the war was framed for the Afghan people through cinematic methods influenced by Soviet filmmakers. During the research, missing fragments of the unfinished film The April Revolution (1978) were discovered at the Russian State Archive of Film and Photographic Documents, having been incorporated into the documentary Afghanistan: The Revolution Continues (1980). Excerpts from the film were shown in Field Research: Liberating Knowledge. Progress Report II.

Status: 2016–2017

Researcher: Mariam Ghani


Mariam Ghani (b. 1978, New York; lives and works in New York) is an artist and filmmaker. Her research-based practice spans video, installation, photography, performance, and text. Ghani recently presented a commissioned work, The Garden of Forked Tongues at the Queens Museum in New York (2016). Group exhibitions and screenings include Unfinished: Thoughts Left Visible, The Met Breuer, New York (2016); But a Storm Is Blowing from Paradise: Contemporary Art of the Middle East and North Africa, Guggenheim Museum, New York (2016); documenta 13, Kabul and Kassel (2012); 10th Sharjah Biennial (2011); Modern Mondays, MoMA, New York (2011); New Video Art from Afghanistan, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (2008); and 3rd Liverpool Biennial (2004). Recent texts have been published by Creative Time Reports, Foreign Policy, Ibraaz, Triple Canopy, and Manifesta Journal. Curatorial projects include the international symposium Radical Archives (2014), Asian/Pacific/American Institute, New York University, New York; the collaborative exhibition Utopian Pulse, Secession, Vienna (2014); In Translation, Mayakovsky Library, St. Petersburg (2014); and the traveling film program History of Histories (2013).


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