Category Archives: Afghanistan

The Iceman offers himself to the Taliban and remembers Charlie Watts

Entrepreneurial Iceman – a self portrait

Yesterday, I got an email from the uniquely entrepreneurial Anthony Irvine aka performance artist The Iceman aka fine artist AIM.

He told me about GIANT – “a new prestigious art gallery in the ex-Debenham’s department store in central Bournemouth” on England’s south coast.

At 15,000 square feet, it is claimed to be the UK’s largest artist-run gallery space outside London. The Iceman told me:”There’s a giant  polar bear in there which I thought was a good omen for me.”

“He has heard back from neither them nor the polar bear”

So he left his business card but, so far, has heard back from neither the organisers nor the polar bear.

Forever entrepreneurial, he has also written an open letter to the Taliban, who surged back into power in Afghanistan this week… in the hope of getting a performance booking from them.

In 1975 he travelled overland via Turkey, Iran (where the Shah was still in power), Afghanistan and Pakistan to India and Nepal, with appropriately long hair, pretending to be a hippy. 

The giant Buddhas of Bamiyan (Photograph from Wikipedia)

In Afghanistan, he stopped in the Bamiyan Valley and, he says, “climbed the rough steps up one of the tall Buddhas carved out of the sandstone rock. At the top, one could actually get into the head. I’m not sure if I experienced immediate enlightenment; more a slow burn…”

The Buddhas were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.

His open letter to the Taliban this week is worth a read in its original form on his website.

But, for the lazy, I translate it here:

Dear Taliban Team,

I’m not sure if it’s appropriate for me to send Congratulations, but I hope you do better than the last time. 

In 1975, I was in Afghanistan. I went up to the beautiful lakes in Band-e-Amir on horseback. I went to see and enter the incredibly still Buddhas in the Bamiyan Valley. 

Why did you blow them up? You thought them idolatrous? Or is it because you understand the concept of emptiness? Probably not.

The Iceman’s image of Block 223 as submitted to the Taliban

Anyway, if it would help, I am happy to come and melt an ice-block somewhere in your rugged country. But, if I make a mistake, please don’t amputate any of my limbs – I need them for my art work. Give me a Community Care Order instead?

I attach a Polaroid of a previous Block [223] to give you a sense of my performance art work.

Do you think it would be popular in Afghanistan?

I also attach a photo of myself for ID purposes.

Yours sincerely,

Anthony Irvine [aim]

Because Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts died this week, The Iceman also shared with me these two memories:

“I remember seeing him getting a taxi in Hammersmith… also at Knebworth in 1976 when I was meant to be on stage with him but was overwhelmed by other factors…”

“WHAT?” I asked. “Knebworth? Other factors? Tell me more…”

And he sort-of did. 

The Stones at Knebworth, as portrayed by the Iceman/AIM

“The Stones,” The Iceman told me, “had insisted that the promoter should attempt to try to instill a carnival atmosphere at the show by hiring a large number of clowns, buskers and other circus acts, who were supposed to entertain the crowd between sets. I guess I was part of this. 

Chris Lynam booked us. I was in a street theatre group from Penge called Shoestring. I played a character called Private Parts. But I think on this occasion we were less performers and more atmosphere creators, interacting with festival goers. I had designed my own clown costume. I think I also wore a chef’s hat.

“I remember Chris Lynam shouting at me to get on stage but I had challenged myself with an alternative form of stimulus and couldn’t get off the ground. I think my colleagues all assembled on the main stage, but I missed my biggest audience.”

On his website, partly as his 1976 self, partly as The Iceman, partly as AIM, his artist persona, he remembers:

I didn’t make it onto stage, man, but I was booked, man – I let the Stones down, man. Not good to let the Stones down, man, but, like, man, they understood, man. Icespecaimlly Mice Jaimgger, man. Things happen at open air concerts, man, and there’s a lot of stuff going on, man. Things happenin’, man, all the taim, man – all kinds of stuff, man, around everywhere, man. It’s craimzy, man – raimlly cricy, man…

We can but wait with bated breath to see if the Taliban reply and sensibly give him a booking in their new (or do I mean old?) Afghanistan…

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Filed under Afghanistan, Art, Eccentrics, Performance

I met an interesting woman from Iran

I met a traveller from an antique land.

You meet people. You lose touch.

In December 2001, I met a woman: an Iranian who had moved to the UK in 1973. She had lots of money.

Assasinated Ahmad Shah Massoud

The assassinated Ahmad Shah Massoud

I met her about three months after the September 11th terrorist attack on New York, After 9/11, she had arranged to go to Afghanistan with help from the brother  of assassinated Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud – Massoud had been assassinated two days before the 9/11 attack. But, after the recent killing of four journalists in Afghanistan, she was told the visit was too dangerous. So, instead, she went to recently war-torn Kosovo and Macedonia. The war in Macedonia had ended around four months before I met her. She came back to the UK with 12 video tapes and 2,600 digital still photos.

She could speak Iranian, English, Arabic, Armenian, Turkish and German.

She had hard eyes.

She told me: “I’m not rich. If I get £100,000, I spend £25,000 here and £25,000 there.”

She was abused as a child and lived in Abu Dhabi. She was a friend of actress Viviane Ventura and an acquaintance of actor Omar Sharif.

She once had to go to China to buy a plane. She knew the general involved.

The assassinated Shapour Bakhtiar

The assassinated Shapour Bakhtiar

She had British and Iranian passports and was related to Shapour Bakhtiar – the former Prime Minister of Iran assassinated in 1991 by three of Ayatollah Khomeini’s agents in Paris. And to Mohammad Mossadeq – the Prime Minister of Iran overthrown in a 1953 coup organised by MI6 and the CIA to install the Shah.

She told me she was thinking of writing her autobiography but, if that news got around, she said, there would be panic calls from Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia offering her millions not to publish. She told me she had lots of dirt on the Saudi royal family.

A former Swedish boyfriend found oil in Texas and she spent one year in Los Angeles. She had stories of the Playboy Mansion and Hugh Hefner’s parties. Once, she told me, she lost £5 million in a London casino.  Her third husband was Lebanese, a professional tennis player, half French. There was physical abuse. She mentioned a knife.

“I always went for the wrong men,” she told me.

She lived alone.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Iran