Thinly Veiled

Thinly Veiled is a short animation re-contextualising President Obama’s address to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, delivered on December 2, 2009. The speech addresses his administration’s strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That America’s foreign policy is having an ever-increasing impact—not only on political unfoldings but also on the seemingly trivial decisions of everyday life—in a place I have known intimately is both all encompassing and wholly removed. The changing landscape of Karachi, still accessible through phone calls to family, Facebook photographs, broad- cast news and exponentially growing blog posts, remains intangible. The fear of a nation disintegrating along provincial borders is palpable for Pakistanis as the battlegrounds in the “War on Terror” take entire cities into their fold. Obama’s use of the term “Af-Pak” obliterates the Durand Line (itself a colonial imposition), exacerbating this unease. Histories, places and our affiliations to them begin to be rede ned by externally imposed solutions to a conflict. The risk that these solutions will continue to include support for (imprecise) military operations and corrupt governments remains.

In Thinly Veiled I hope to convey not only my uncertainties about (and opposition to) the extended war, but also its cyclical relentlessness. Within the animation the transcript of President Obama’s speech, with parts of the text removed, scrolls over a self-portrait. I amplify the effects of a strained political relationship through segments in a dreamscape. Images of the drone and the crow — one indiscriminate in its blind destruction, the other an all-seeing harbinger of certain catastrophe — act as counter- points, both complicit. I also implicate myself, as I wash dishes and watch television while only having to imagine harsher realities.