Mari Bastashevski | State Business: Chapter IV

Country of origin: Russia, Denmark
Project location: The Horn of Africa
Program: Magnum Foundation Fund
Year: 2017

State Business combines media and social theories with investigative research in order to explore the relationship between the state, companies, and media which not only sustains crises as the status quo but produces new territories of sovereignty and aggressive mutation of warfare and forms of paranoia for the algorithmic age. Ultimately, the work questions whether a non-participatory representation of conflict is at all possible in the current media regime, and, if so, which kind of image of war will be resistant to any form of auto-image consumption when disjointed from its broader context.

In each of the chapters I attempt to reconstruct a conflict narrative by tracing a trajectory of a specific transaction that I posit eventually resulted in very real causalities without a culprit. Each chapter unpacks the connections between the actors in a manner that tries to cut through all established notions of The Other as enemy, arguing that The Other is always engineered and artificially manufactured in service of the conflict economy.

The Solution Army addresses the expansion of the private military contractors in the horn of Africa in parallel with an expansion of aid industry in the same domains. Part of this work builds a trajectory and a rapid expansion of Frontier Group Services chaired by ex-Blackwater CEO Erik Prince in the horn of Africa, the second part is looking at the logistical actors employed by the food aid industry in the past years. At a certain point the two predictably intersect. This work is a juxtaposition of research documentation, images, and texts. It is designed as a book, an exhibition, and a more elaborate website that reveals the process behind the investigations.


Mari Bastashevski is an artist, writer, and researcher. Her past works - usually a result of extensive online and field investigations - integrate manifestations of information, photographs, and texts to explore the role of visual presentation in creating and sustaining state-corporate power. Presently, she is engaged in a number of collaborative art and technology initiatives examining the historical nexus between technology, cultural, environmental and political violence. She has exhibited with Maison Populaire, Musée de l’Elysée, HKW Berlin, Art Souterrain, Noorderlicht, and has been published in Time Magazine, The New York Times, Courrier International, Le Monde, e-flux, VICE and a number of other venues. She is an artist in (and out of) residency at Chateau D’Oiron, and has been a technology fellow at the ISP, Yale, and the Data & Society Institute. She has also been awarded art residencies at IASPIS Stockholm and Cite des Art in Paris.