BLOWBACK is a CIA term, a metaphor for the unintended consequences of covert operations against foreign nations and governments. The project borrows the term to explore the relationship between early anthropological portraiture and modern political violence labeled as terrorism.  Through these works a relation of causality appears between Western representations of formerly colonized subjects and acts of political retaliation labeled as terrorism today.

Excerpted from Press Release for BLOWBACK: 

The works in BLOWBACK present “native” subjects, found in 19th and 20th century Dutch and German anthropological archives, reimagined as potential sites of violence. The works attempt to give life, and voice, to the people whose haunting and anonymous images are still entangled within European imperial archives. Today the presence of black and brown bodies in western societies is frequently perceived as threatening. Exaggerating and playing on this fear, Kahlon weaponizes those who have been reduced to subjects of science, unworthy of autonomy. Doing so, Kahlon shows the uncanny connection between past and present imperial images.

In BLOWBACK, Kahlon's reflects on the possibility of translation from the archive to the art work. The works in BLOWBACK include a range of techniques that all aim at restoring the dignity of colonized photographic subjects. Through the different visual mechanisms of her works, Kahlon attempts to offer a living and acting presence to those people who have been dominated, studied, robbed of their image, categorised, and finally, silenced by the very archive that nevertheless preserved their muted image.

Between painting and sculpture, functioning as a form of three dimensional collage, a life-sized cut- out of a dark-skinned man stands in the center of the space as a distant echo to Da Vinci's famous “Vitruvian Man,” representing the mathematical perfection of human proportions, an image that is often understood as a symbol of European modernity. But in place of some of his four arms and four legs, this dark Vitruvian Man possesses rocket launchers and machine guns, merging together ideals of beauty and terrorist violence, modern rationality and colonization.  


© 2017 by Rajkamal Kahlon