October 28 - December 2, 2014

(Un)governed spaces, assembled by artist Gregory Thielker and anthropologist Noah Coburn, opens in Bennington’s Usdan Gallery on October 28, at 6:30 pm.

A collaborative presentation, (Un)governed spaces focuses on the Afghan region surrounding the U.S. military base at Bagram. The region—which has been occupied by Alexander the Great, the Soviet Union, the Taliban, and most recently, the United States—offers a crossroads of past and present. Over the course of the past three years, Thielker and Coburn lived, researched, and toured the region, sharing intimate conversations with locals, interviewing U.S. soldiers, sketching the bazaar and local houses, and conducting historical and ethnographic research both in Afghanistan and the United States.

Said Thielker: “Drawing around the Bagram airbase challenged me to work quickly because we had to keep moving and yet slow down enough in order to really focus on the texture of a concrete barrier, the angles of barbed wire, or the jets flying overhead. But the result was a series of strong impressions that I was able to develop through painting and drawing.“

In one of Thielker’s pieces, – documentation of which can be found here – a 35-foot-long panoramic painting, the dramatic mountains and lush fields of the Shomali Plain north of Kabul are contrasted with the barbed wire and concrete of the military base. The visual elements are paired with narrative descriptions of the region’s history, ethnographic accounts, and interview selections. The result is a viewing experience that shows the complexity of Afghanistan today, while the instability of the past still echoes.

“Having lived and conducted research in Afghanistan for more than a decade,” said Coburn, “I still struggle to describe the complex ways in which the military has reshaped the communities, and the tensions that exist between the communities and the base. Working with Greg has enabled me to express these ambiguities by exploring new ways of understanding and portraying this complex space. (Un)governed Spaces is a powerful contrast to the predictable narratives of Afghanistan because it combines anthropology and art to create a layered and open-ended presentation of life amid conflict.”

Learn more here: www.ungovernedspaces.com

Gregory Thielker, Fig 270 – No 121  2013, oil on canvas  30 x 40 inches

Gregory Thielker, Hanging wall 2013


Opening Reception and Artist Talk
Tuesday, October 28, 6:30 – 8:00 pm
Usdan Gallery, VAPA

A Discussion with Young Afghan and Pakistani Scholars
Monday, November 3  7:00 pm
Usdan Gallery, VAPA

National Geographic films presents Restrepo
Monday, November 10 7:00 pm
Usdan Gallery, VAPA


Tuesday - Saturday, 1:00PM – 5:00PM.


Installation view.


Gregory Thielker, Panorama (detail), 2014

Gregory Thielker, Bagram District Compound, 2013

Bennington Bagram Connection: A project about places and personal spaces, 2014

Installation view.

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Gregory Thielker in Bamyan.

Gregory Thielker lives and works in New Jersey, as well as abroad. His previous work includes a Fulbright grant to research the Grand Trunk Road in India as well as site projects in El Salvador and Norway. Recent solo exhibitions include “(Un)governed Spaces” at Republic Gallery, Paris, and “Highway” at Flashpoint Gallery, Washington, DC. His work has been reviewed in The Independent, La Repubblica, and The Washington Post. He is an Assistant Professor of Art at The College of New Jersey.

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Noah Coburn in Istalif.

Noah Coburn is a Professor of Anthropology at Bennington College, in Vermont, with many years research experience in Afghanistan. He is the author of “Derailing Democracy in Afghanistan” (Columbia University Press, 2014) and “Bazar Politics: Power and Pottery in an Afghan Market Town” (Stanford University Press, 2011).