Zardad’s Dog is on display

Anyone who saw the shortlisted pieces for last year’s Turner Prize might have noticed that part of one of the exhibits was off display. The exhibit was by Langlands and Bell and consisted of a number of pieces about Afghanistan, one of which, the film Zardad’s Dog, was withheld due to its clash with an ongoing trial, that of Faryadi Sarwar Zardad, who was finally convicted in July and sentenced to 20 years in prison at the Old Bailey court in London.

I finally got to see Zardad’s Dog this afternoon, in a visit to the Tate Britain gallery intending to see this year’s Turner Prize candidates. In the end I chose to leave the Turner exhibition for another day when I’ve got more money, but I did manage to see this film. To be honest, I don’t know why it could have contributed to anyone winning an art prize.

It was just simple reportage of the trial of the so-called dog - Abdullah Shah, a psychopath used by Zardad to savage his victims by such methods as biting off their testicles. Abdullah Shah had a long record of murder, having killed three of his own wives, one of them with boiling water and another with fire. He also killed three wives and one of his daughters. The film showed his trial, with footage entirely in the local language - not sure if it was Pushto or Persian, probably the latter - with occasional captions telling us who people were. We were never told what was actually said, which made the whole thing seem a bit pointless. And why were there no seats in the room where the film was shown?

Abdullah Shah was sentenced to death, and executed by a single bullet to the head. Of course, the execution was condemned from the usual quarters and by people who thought it was a means of covering up other abuses by getting rid of a witness. Of course, one must ask what value the witness of a serial murderer has. But I’m not surprised L&B didn’t win the Turner Prize last year. Their installation was all right as reportage, although translations would have been much appreciated, but wasn’t art.

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