Cornford and Cross
The Treason of Images 2001

Buried section of oil pipeline
Proposal for Commission on the Aftermath of September 11 and the War in Afghanistan
Afghanistan/Imperial War Museum, London

We proposed to install a short section of oil pipeline in Afghanistan, somewhere along one of the intended routes linking the oil fields of Central Asia with the Arabian Sea.

The social process of this project would have encompassed the advocacy and negotiation we would have undertaken to gain approval and realise the physical part of the work. The help of Afghan people and international aid agencies, as well as the military and oil pipeline designers, would also have been necessary for the project’s realisation.

Our photographs of the project would have emerged in relation to news management procedures, as we were aiming this work at the news media as well as visitors to the Imperial War Museum. As the project could only have been realised through practice legitimated as art by official cultural support, and within territory protected by military force, it would have existed as a function of influence and control.

Consumer culture has a problematic and contradictory relationship to other cultures, and to the natural environment. As finite resources become increasingly scarce, competition for them is likely to become more intense. The scale of this competition will be affected by levels of consumption, while its nature will be influenced by factors including corporate communications, diplomacy and military conflict.

Art historical precedent for the proposed work may be found in some of the American Land Art projects of the 1960s, including Nancy Holt’s ‘Sun Tunnels’ and Robert Smithson’s ‘Non-Sites’ and ‘Displacements’. Our proposed spatial and temporal project would have shared with these and other conceptual works a more permanent visibility through documentation, especially text and photography.

The Treason of Images, 1929, is the title of René Magritte’s seminal painting of a pipe and the words ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe’. The work spans surrealist and conceptual art, and highlights the contingent nature of the relationship between language and image, between perceptions of the world and representations of it.

René Magritte, The Treason of Images, c. 1928-1929. Courtesy of Los Angeles County Museum of Art, purchased with funds provided by the Mr and Mrs William Preston Harrison Collection. Photograph © 2005 Museum Associates/LACMA © ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2005

Nancy Holt, ‘Sun Tunnels’ 1972, Utah, USA. Photograph 2002.

Near Heart, Afghanistan, 2001. Photograph by Neil Tudman, Médécins Sans Frontiéres