Why Art Radar’s art journalism and writing course is unique

Art Radar‘s Certificate in Art Journalism & Writing is completely unique.

It’s a big claim, we know, but it’s true. This course has three features, which together make it a total one-off. Read on to find out what they are.

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Unique how?

Build a published portfolio

We guarantee that the articles you write will actually be published. Not only will they be published, they will also be seen by our large readership of art dealers, auctioneers, writers, collectors, artists and art enthusiasts. Did you know that we now have more than 25,000 subscribers and followers? Art Radar alumni use their portfolios to land auction and publishing house internships, journalism and research positions, gallery roles and much more.

Live anywhere, learn anytime

Because each of the four certificates in our new two-year-long art writing diploma course is taught entirely online, students can work from any city in the world. All that is needed is a reliable computer, a speedy Internet connection and a passion for contemporary art.

Supported learning

To ensure your work meets the high editorial standards we set for our students and our staff here at Art Radar, your work will be workshopped by not one but two experienced art editors. This one-on-one editorial support is accompanied by a six-module course delivered to you by email fortnightly for the duration of your certificate.

Ready to apply?

Smart! We have limited places and we will increase our rates for the next intake, so get your application in to us quick smart.

Click here for more information on the course content and faculty.

You can sign up for course fees and application information by sending an email to artradarinstitute@gmail.com.

Application deadline: Sunday 20 March 2016.

Have questions?

If you would prefer to speak to someone in person to see if the course is right for you, contact Kriti Bajaj at artradarinstitute@gmail.com to set up a Skype appointment.

– The Art Radar Institute team

P.S. Why not forward this article to a friend? It’s more fun to study together!

“An Atlas of Mirrors”: the Singapore Biennale 2016

The Singapore Art Museum recently announced the theme for the 5th edition of its biennial exhibition.

The Singapore Biennale 2016 will include art from East and South Asia, while pivoting on Southeast Asia, with several new site-specific and commissioned works never before seen on the international biennial circuit.

The Singapore Art Museum. © United Nations Information Centre | Courtesy Singapore Art Museum

The Singapore Art Museum. © United Nations Information Centre/Flickr. Image courtesy Singapore Art Museum.

The Singapore Biennale has become, with only five editions, the flagship biennial exhibition of Southeast Asia. Returning for the fifth time from 28 October 2016 to 26 February 2017, the four-month long Singapore Biennale 2016 (SB2016) is organised by the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) and commissioned by the National Arts Council of Singapore.

The 2016 iteration will see a public programme of tours, workshops and talks, as well as a number of new site-specific installations and commissions that have never been shown before in international biennales. SB2016 will take place across the SAM venues on Bras Basah Road and Queen Street as well as other heritage sites around Singapore.

Martha Atienza, 'My Navel Is Buried in the Sea', film still, a three screen video installation 2011, hd video, 31 mins. Image courtesy the artist's website.

Martha Atienza, ‘My Navel Is Buried in the Sea’, 2011, film still, three screen video installation, hd video, 31 mins. Image courtesy the artist.

An Atlas of Mirrors

This year’s edition of the Biennale is themed “An Atlas of Mirrors”. The title makes references to tools used by humankind for centuries to explore uncharted territories as well as one’s own reflections and new visual perspectives. In the curatorial statement, the curatorial team write:

In charting our way around the world, humankind has relied on instruments of vision as well as navigation. Atlases map and mirror our journeys of discovery and often make visible more than just physical terrains; driven by our needs and desires, they embolden us to venture into the unknown. […] Where navigational tools like the atlas – a compendium of maps – enable us to set our sights further afield, one instrument in particular – the mirror – brings us into that which is still so mysterious: the self. While we depend on mirrors to show us to ourselves, their reflective surfaces are not always reliable for they echo, skew, magnify and invert.

Qiu Zhijie, 'Greeting', 2013, paper masks, silicon masks, dimensions variable. Photo: Meng Wei. Image courtesy Galleria Continua, San Gimignano / Beijing / Le Moulin.

Qiu Zhijie, ‘Greeting’, 2013, paper masks, silicon masks, dimensions variable. Photo: Meng Wei. Image courtesy Galleria Continua, San Gimignano / Beijing / Le Moulin.

The Biennale proposes to bring together atlases and mirrors to constitute an imagined new “device” to create “possibilities for unexpected ways of thinking and seeing”, as stated in the press release. The theme invites artists to trace migratory journeys as well as shared cultures, histories and current realities between Southeast, South and East Asia.

The curatorial team explain in their statement:

How will a coupling of an atlas and the curiosities of the mirror shift our perception of the world? Through combining the divergent literal and metaphorical characteristics of these devices, a new instrument of vision and thought is imagined, giving rise to a constellation of artistic perspectives which trace our migratory, intertwining histories and cultures. An Atlas of Mirrors positions Southeast Asia as a vantage point through which we recognise our world anew.

While a complete list of participating artists will be released later in 2016, at this stage SB2016 has revealed some of the featured ones, such as Ahmad Fuad Osman from Malaysia, Martha Atienza from the Philippines, Rathin Barman from India, Fyerool Darma from Singapore, Han Sai Por from Singapore, Nguyen Phuong Linh from Vietnam, Qiu Zhijie from China, Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook from Thailand, Titarubi from Indonesia, Tun Win Aung and Wah Nu from Myanmar.

Tun Win Aung and Wah Nu, screenshot from an interactive computer program for 'Museum Project #7: Taungyi Open Air Museum of New Media Art', 2012-2013, Interactive computer program: Phyoe Kyi, Phyoekyi Portfolios 1.0, 2012 Photo courtesy: nnncl workshop. Image courtesy the artists.

Tun Win Aung and Wah Nu, screenshot from an interactive computer program for ‘Museum Project #7: Taungyi Open Air Museum of New Media Art’, 2012-2013, interactive computer programme: Phyoe Kyi, Phyoekyi Portfolios 1.0, 2012. Photo courtesy: nnncl workshop. Image courtesy the artists.

A Collaborative Curatorial Vision

The curatorial vision for SB2016 follows the collaborative approach of SB2013, while sharpening its focus to include a team with specialisation in Southeast Asian as well as South and East Asian contemporary art.

Dr Susie Lingham will be the Creative Director of SB2016 when she leaves her role as Director of SAM at the end of March 2016. Dr Lingham will be working closely with the curatorial team including SAM Curators Joyce Toh, Tan Siuli, Louis Ho, Andrea Fam and John Tung. In addition, four Associate Curators are invited by SAM to work collaboratively together: Bangalore-based Suman Gopinath, Malaysian Nur Hanim Khairuddin, Michael Lee from Singapore, and Shanghai’s Xiang Liping.

Singapore Biennale 2016 (SB2016) curatorial team. Image courtesy Singapore Art Museum.

Singapore Biennale 2016 (SB2016) curatorial team. Image courtesy Singapore Art Museum.

An SB2016 Advisory Committee comprising experts from different fields –historians, sociologists, academics, arts practitioners, intellectuals, curators – will give independent advice to the SB2016 Curatorial team. This committee includes experts such as independent curator June Yap, Head / Senior Associate Director of NUS Museum Ahmad Mashadi, and Director of Arts and Heritage at the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth Yeo Whee Jim.

Dr Susie Lingham comments about SB2016, as quoted in the press release:

An Atlas of Mirrors is an evocative title that piques and intrigues the imagination – both for the participating artists to respond creatively to, and for viewers to engage in new experiences and ways of seeing. Forging the literal and metaphorical characteristics of atlas and mirror into a curious new-wrought instrument of vision and thought presents the possibility for unusual perspectives on our contemporary realities that arise from our shared histories and cultures, especially in Southeast, East and South Asia.

C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia

1017

Related Topics: Southeast Asian artists, South Asian artists, East Asian artists, curatorial practice, biennales, biennials, news, events in Singapore

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The India Art Fair 2016 scorecard: spotlighting India’s great artists

Art Radar explores who faired well and what’s to learn at India Art Fair 2016.

The India Art Fair closed its doors on 31 January 2016. Art Radar rounds up the most memorable moments and artists seen during the four-day event.

Rina Banerjee at Hosfelt Gallery, California. Image courtesy Hosfelt Gallery.

Rina Banerjee at Hosfelt Gallery, California. Image courtesy Hosfelt Gallery.

The eighth edition of the India Art Fair opened on 28 January 2016 with news of a three-year partnership with BMW, the launch of a series of art awards by the India Today Group and a committed focus on art from the Asian subcontinent. This year did also see increased international participation, a better design that enabled easy navigation through the fair and an extended programme of talks and project presentations.

Faig Ahmed, 'Step by Step', at Gallery Nature Morte. Image courtesy Nature Morte.

Faig Ahmed, ‘Step by Step’, at Gallery Nature Morte. Image courtesy Nature Morte.

India’s great artists

With most galleries opting to display a rather safe selection of artwork of ‘saleable artists’, the fair lacked an element of freshness and missed those few moments of surprise. Nevertheless, the selection of art on show provided a level of comfort for both the uninitiated collector and for the existing contemporary art collector.

Delhi-based galleries (who were the majority) like Nature Morte showed their ace artists Subodh Gupta and Faig Ahmed, Gallery Espace presented the likes of Zarina and Manjunath Kamath, while Vadehra Art Gallery’s booth hosted works by Atul Dodiya and Shilpa Gupta. The overall quality of work presented seemed to be better than that of the last edition and a very welcome change. Feedback from galleries on organisation revealed far fewer creases to iron out with many claiming it to be in the league of Frieze and Art Basel.

Collector Radhika Chopra commented to Flint PR:

As a collector I would say the fair is tighter and more thoughtfully edited, particularly with regard to the galleries. It is an all round better experience, with considerable thought given to visitors in terms of the layout and overall experience as well as the fun side of fair.

Nicola Durvasula’s solo presentation at Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke. Image courtesy Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke.

Nicola Durvasula’s solo presentation at Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke. Image courtesy Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke.

A fresh curatorial approach

This year also saw more crisply curated gallery booths, such as Mumbai’s Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke with their solo presentation of terracotta sculptures and watercolours by Nicola Durvasula, and Sabrina Amrani from Madrid showing four artists including Pakistani Waqas Khan’s quiet, reflective drawings.

Solo artist representations seemed a popular choice with international galleries who saw wisdom in highlighting the range and evolution of a single artist’s practice. Gallery Hosfelt from California showed a depth of Rina Banerjee’s work. Thomas Erben Gallery from New York showed photographs by Yamini Nayar dating from 2005, while Dubai-based Grey Noise presented the geometric compositions of Fahd Burki.

Sabrina Amrani, Madrid, gallery booth presenting works by Joël Andrianomearisoa, Ayesha Jatoi, Waqas Khan, Timothy Hyunsoo Lee and UBIK. Image courtesy Sabrina Amrani.

Sabrina Amrani, Madrid, gallery booth presenting works by Joël Andrianomearisoa, Ayesha Jatoi, Waqas Khan, Timothy Hyunsoo Lee and UBIK. Image courtesy Sabrina Amrani.

Successful sales

Day one witnessed an excitement amongst exhibitors, with some like Mumbai’s Gallery Isa, who sold four pieces by European contemporary artists including Achraf Touloub and Matthias Bitzer to Indian collectors within the first few hours. Sales for most galleries remained those made on the first day alone, except for Experimenter (Kolkata) and GALLERYSKE (Bangalore/ Delhi) and Lakeeren who reported excellent sales.

Dr Arshiya Lokhandwala of Lakeeren Gallery, as quoted by the fair organisers, observed:

There is noticeably more energy than last year, with many new collectors visible. We’re very optimistic and it feels good to be back here. We’ve sold a number of works across a range of prices (from 1-20 Lakh Rupees). People are responding really well to the booth and we have the pick of collectors who are interested.

Prateek Raja, Director of Experimenter Gallery, in conversation with visitors at the fair. Image courtesy Experimenter Gallery.

Prateek Raja, Director of Experimenter Gallery, in conversation with visitors at the fair. Image courtesy Experimenter Gallery.

Attendance, this year was limited to the art ‘insiders’ – a sophisticated audience whose interest in art is either limited to the Moderns or blue-chip contemporary artists, with only a few committing to a purchase by closing day.

Baudoin Lebon from Paris told Art Radar:

We are engaging younger new collectors across new markets. People are buying and asking and engaging, from the top end of the collectors but also especially from this huge emerging middle market. This year the fair has really improved a lot. It has evolved, and matured, and as a gallery we are really happy.

Mohsin Shafi , 'Confessions of a Centrefold', at the Taseer Art Gallery booth. Image courtesy Taseer Art Gallery.

Mohsin Shafi , ‘Confessions of a Centrefold’, at the Taseer Art Gallery booth. Image courtesy Taseer Art Gallery.

DAG Modern (Delhi Art Gallery) brought in the bigwigs of the Indian art world: a stunning Amrita Shergil canvas, an untitled bronze sculpture by Ramkinkar Baij, a Mother and Child portrait by Jamini Roy amidst a host of masterpieces by M.F. Husain, F.N. Souza, S.H. Raza, Avinash Chandra and Shanti Dave. With another pavilion across the two main halls of the fair, designed as a mini-museum with its own programme of screening, talks and curator-led walks, DAG Modern putting their best foot forward, even published their own newsletter – Art @ the Fair.

There were also some interesting new projects, such as an exquisite collection of “Company Paintings” presented by Noida’s Swaraj Art Archive, the works of Farida Batool and Mohsin Shafi at Taseer Art Gallery’s space from Lahore and art by Pala Pothupitiya and Jagath Weerasinghe from Theertha International Artists Collective, Colombo representing their own work.

A temple map at Pichvai Tradition & Beyond. Image courtesy Pichvai Tradition & Beyond.

A temple map at Pichvai Tradition & Beyond. Image courtesy Pichvai Tradition & Beyond.

A new curatorial direction

Overall, Zain Masud’s coming on board as International Director did work its charm, with many claiming a heightened level of professionalism and ‘seriousness’ to the fair. For galleries showing for the first time, Masud’s presence and the direction of programming towards a South Asia focus was a step in the right direction. However, with the collector pool not having expanded, galleries had little incentive to show new artists. The pace was slower, new collectors were few and far between.

Overview of the India Art Fair 2016. Image courtesy India Art Fair.

Overview of the India Art Fair 2016. Image courtesy India Art Fair.

With the neighbouring brand of the successful Dhaka Art Summit and a saturated market in need of new invigorating models of engagement, the India Art Fair seemed to be missing the manic activity of a busy art fair, perhaps even due to ‘fair fatigue’. However, the India Art Fair still provided a pleasant experience, well designed to allow both the viewer and buyer to absorb the art presented and to get acquainted with some of the most influential and recognised artists on the Indian scene today.

Kanika Anand

1019

Related Topics: Indian artists, art fairs, collectors, curatorial practice, market watch, business of art, events in India

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Death of the composer: Sound artist Wang Chung-Kun’s music machines

Taiwanese artist Wang Chung-Kun probes the physical and philosophical depths of sound.

Art Radar investigates the artist’s intriguing music-making machines and philosophy of anonymity on the occasion of his solo exhibition at Project Fulfill Art Space in Taipei.

Wang Chung-kun, 'Sound.of.Suitcase - Noise Box', 2014, interactive sound sculpture: customised laser-cut acrylic object, 3D printing horn, motor, ultrasonic sensor, customised electric device, wood and leather, 35.5 x 23 x 24 cm, edition: 1 of 3. Image courtesy Project Fulfill Art Space.

Wang Chung-Kun, ‘Sound.of.Suitcase – Noise Box’, 2014, interactive sound sculpture: customised laser-cut acrylic object, 3D printing horn, motor, ultrasonic sensor, customised electric device, wood and leather, 35.5 x 23 x 24 cm, edition: 1 of 3. Image courtesy Project Fulfill Art Space.

Marking a decade since the Taiwanese artist embarked on his artistic career, “Making Sound – Wang Chung-Kun Solo Exhibition” (until 27 February 2016) spotlights Wang’s recent sound machines as well as a new interactive sound installation.

Sound as existential possibility

For Wang Chung-Kun (b. 1982), sound is not just a sensory modality but an intrinsic component of value and identity. His graduation work, a kinetic sculpture entitled wood-fish (2005), explores how sound imbues life in an otherwise cold and inorganic structure. Wang’s artist statement for the piece, as translated by Art Radar, reads:

Machines give people an ice-cold feeling. In the artist’s eyes, however, machines can have a life of their own. A whole new life can be born from the combination of different contrasting materials and mediums. […] The intervention of sound, in particular, increases an artwork’s existential value and potential.

Since wood-fish, Wang’s enduring devotion to kinetic sculpture (or, as he terms it, “complicated musical instruments”) has resulted in a mesmerising body of work. Quietly stirring and whirring, clicking and humming, the complex automated machines exude a mysterious yet cheerfully spirited sensuality. As his artist biography on Project Fulfill Art Space’s website states, Wang’s various forms of machinery

have consistently maintained an intriguing purity and peculiar sense of beauty. […] Sound-making, switching on and off, exhaling, spinning or twinkling […] they have their own rhythm variation, as if they have a life of their own.

Wang Chung-kun, 'sound.of.suitcase - three little wood fishes', 2014, interactive sound sculpture: hand-made wooden fish, motor, ultrasonic sensor, customised electric device and wood , 26 x 26 x 46 cm, edition: 2 of 3. Image courtesy Project Fulfill Art Space.

Wang Chung-Kun, ‘sound.of.suitcase – three little wood fishes’, 2014, interactive sound sculpture: hand-made wooden fish, motor, ultrasonic sensor, customised electric device and wood , 26 x 26 x 46 cm, edition: 2 of 3. Image courtesy Project Fulfill Art Space.

The beauty of automation 

Wang’s love for his craft is evident in his creations. His increasingly sophisticated kinetic sculptures retain a zen-like visual elegance, emanating the charm of old-fashioned quality woodwork. The true allure, however, comes from the machines’ uncanny and gently whimsical automated movements, whose rhythms and directions are initiated and dictated solely by fate. The exhibition press release describes it thus:

Wang’s artworks are usually designed to produce sound either by the viewers’ engagement or by the auto-run programs. They offer us unique experiences of sound in a mesmerizing manner. Besides, these sound artworks can be transformed into musical instruments for live performances through different digital changeover procedures.

Click here to watch Wang Chung-Kun’s sound.of.suitcase – noiseBox on Vimeo

Wang’s sound.of.suitcase series, which began in 2011 and debuted at Art Basel Hong Kong in 2014, enthralled fairgoers on first viewing and is much sought after by collectors. Inspired by vintage portable sound devices and box-type instruments, the elegant devices interact and respond to viewers as if with individual minds of their own. The press release explains:

Employing his ingenious techniques and shrewd aesthetic judgement, the artist repurposed traditional instruments such as wood fishes, pipe organs, and gramophones into aesthetically pleasing sound sculptures or installations. The infrared sensors attached to the wooden boxes capture the viewers’ motion, thereby putting the in-box instruments into operation and producing all sorts of noise and sound.

Wang Chung-kun, 'sound.of.suitcase -seascape', 2015, wood, electronic device, motor, LED and plastic, 54 x 19.5 x 21.5 cm, editions of 3. Image courtesy Project Fulfill Art Space.

Wang Chung-Kun, ‘sound.of.suitcase -seascape’, 2015, wood, electronic device, motor, LED and plastic, 54 x 19.5 x 21.5 cm, editions of 3. Image courtesy Project Fulfill Art Space.

Death of the composer

In one iteration of the sound.of.suitcase series, the machine concludes its performance and, after a charismatic pause, snaps its lid shut on its own accord. As Sheryl Cheung observed in LEAP in 2013, Wang’s objective and anonymous machines explore “classical questions of originality and authorship in music culture”:

Wang’s interest in soundscape does not lie in manipulating sound as environment, but in conducting a visual study of electronic music writing. […] The lack of human touch during the writing process subordinates the role of authorship […].

Sound Wall, the new large-scale interactive installation on show at Project Fulfill Art Space, is an elaborate manifestation of the themes of anonymity and authorship. Combining and developing motifs from older works, Sound Wall reproduces the process of electronic sound production with configured devices that utilise the laws of permutation. Anonymous and universal, Wang’s aural aesthetic discards subjective production so as to encourage viewers to listen to the world.

Michele Chan

1024

Related Topics: Taiwanese artists, sound art, kinetic art, interactive art, installation, sculpture, gallery shows, events in Taipei

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Plunging further to reveal the truth: Bangladeshi Mustafa Zaman – artist profile

Mustafa Zaman employs found images to lay bare the simultaneity of creation and destruction.

Zaman’s latest series showing at the 2016 edition of the Dhaka Art Summit examines loss, disillusionment and marginalisation amongst socio-cultural paradigms, in a country whose contemporary art scene continues to evolve and surprise.

Mustafa Zaman, from the "Lost Memory Eternalised" series, from the "Not Everybody is Bleeding" batch, 2015, photography on archival paper. Image courtesy the artist.

Mustafa Zaman, from the “Lost Memory Eternalised” series, from the “Not Everybody is Bleeding” batch, 2015, photography on archival paper. Image courtesy the artist.

Mustafa Zaman‘s multidisciplinary work often takes an intimate look at the human condition, the representation/objectification of the human body and a “sense of loss which often colours our perception of time” through images harvested from old books, magazines and medical journals.

Zaman was born in Dhaka in 1968. The capital of Bangladesh, Dhaka is a bustling metropolis once considered the “Venice of the East” and the Mughal Capital of Bengal. Zaman was a child when the country was plunged into unrest against what was then known as West Pakistan (now Pakistan) in the Bangladesh Liberation War (1971), which led to independence later that year. Zaman successfully earned his BFA in Printmaking from the Institute of Fine Arts (now known as the Faculty of Fine Arts), University of Dhaka in 1989. In addition to exhibiting widely throughout Bangladesh, Zaman is the editor of Depart Magazine, a quarterly art magazine focusing on the local art scene and across the Indian subcontinent.

Mustafa Zaman, 'Mourning After 1', digital print developed from collage and drawing. Image courtesy the artist.

Mustafa Zaman, ‘Mourning After 1’, digital print developed from collage and drawing. Image courtesy the artist.

Dhaka raising

As an artist who has been involved in Dhaka’s contemporary art scene since its formative years, Zaman has been in a unique position to experience the trajectory of visual arts in Bangladesh and observe the country’s “emerging cultural ecology” first-hand. As Zaman told Art Radar, groups of artist-run organisations and private galleries have continued to provide an important platform for contemporary art in Bangladesh, while the increasingly popular Dhaka Art Summit has created a buzz around local talent within the international art arena:

In order to impact the mainstream with works which were considered an anomaly in the environment of the 1990s, these groups along with crucial contributions from a number of individual artists who showed staying power over the last two decades, helped create the emerging cultural ecology in which new media, installation and even performance art are being seriously considered and showcased by at least one mainstream gallery. And if you take into account the new platform which is the Summit, it is geared towards art made in a similar vein.

Mustafa Zaman. Photo: Sumon Ahmed.

Mustafa Zaman. Photo: Sumon Ahmed.

The artist’s series Lost Memory Eternalised will be exhibited from 5 to 8 February 2016 at the Dhaka Art Summit‘s “Solo Projects” programme, curated by Samdani Art Foundation Artistic Director Diana Campbell Betancourt.

Zaman exposes an “unauthorised retelling of the past” (PDF download) as written in an essay for the “Solo Project” programme:

Mustafa Zaman’s newly commissioned Solo Project Lost Memory Eternalised is an unauthorised retelling of the past, revealed after readjusting the lens to the events in the lives of human beings on Earth – where the human condition(s) shaped by history leaves us in awe of the events that make up our experiential domains, giving rise to moments of epiphany and other forms of awakening, which cannot be explained away.

Mustafa Zaman, from the "Lost Memory Eternalised" series, from the "Not Everybody is Bleeding" batch, 2014, photography on archival paper. Image courtesy the artist.

Mustafa Zaman, from the “Lost Memory Eternalised” series, from the “Not Everybody is Bleeding” batch, 2015, photography on archival paper. Image courtesy the artist.

Plagues and pathologies

The concept behind Lost Memory Eternalised was born when the artist came upon a jar of honey teeming with dead and dying ants. This gave him the idea of pouring the viscous material onto tracing paper and then laying it on top of an image, before capturing it on film. As Zaman recently explained to Art Radar, his newest work signifies a shift from a politicised and strident view of the world to a more subtle handling of the realities that plague modern-day life:

The current series, Lost Memory Eternalised, is situated on a rather different plain – on a subjective topography where the edginess of political art has subsided, but the disillusionment with modern life remains as pronounced as before though the visual freight has become poetic. The obvious antagonistic relational frame of body and the body politic, the individual and the power structure is now replaced with a nuanced interpretation of the experiential world. But the subjective patterns my recent works bring into view come coloured with the subterranean violence of power relations, social injustice and the overriding sense of being lost in a world where one is faced with the daunting task of getting over the social and individual pathologies that defile our time.

Mustafa Zaman, 'Reading Beings in Silent Rooms B', back-lit digital print. Image courtesy the artist.

Mustafa Zaman, ‘Reading Beings in Silent Rooms B’, back-lit digital print. Image courtesy the artist.

Zaman’s timeless and refined images create an opportunity for the audience to reflect upon their perception of reality and to look at the time continuum simultaneously, with no past, no present and no future. In Lost Memory Eternalised the pictures covered with golden honey elevate the image beyond its original narrative, while the dead ants speak of “collective disillusionment” and the sense of loss around the fleeting nature of time.

Mustafa Zaman, from the "Lost Memory Eternalised" series, from the "Not Everybody is Bleeding" batch, 2015, photography on archival paper.

Mustafa Zaman, from the “Lost Memory Eternalised” series, from the “Not Everybody is Bleeding” batch, 2015, photography on archival paper. Image courtesy the artist.

As the artist told Art Radar, this is not the first time he has “substituted” an unusual medium to reveal new “visual possibilities” and to provide an “anti-narrative” – especially around challenging contemporary topics that haunt our modern-day world:

I once used mercury placed on the surface of a butcher’s block in a predictably flowing pattern around a cleaver to allude to bloodletting. Accordingly, with honey, I thought I could easily avoid direct confrontations with the rising violence and bloodletting which has become a norm of sorts in the entire world as well as my homeland – it seemed like an appropriate substitute for blood.

Mustafa Zaman, "Talking Heads An After Dinner Speech" installation view. Image courtesy the artist.

Mustafa Zaman, installation view of ‘Talking Heads An After Dinner Speech’. Image courtesy the artist.

It is this ever shifting narrative and lens upon contemporary life that interests Zaman, where the product is not so much an image to be objectified but one that is based upon birth and death, delving deeper into the truth. This shift provides an artist with an ultimate sense of freedom, as Zaman revealed to Art Radar:

The very nature of art is such that it continuously aligns itself with certain ideas to make one plunge further into those ideas, to reveal additional contents and essences while simultaneously destroying ideas that it opposes to become an artistic act of value. Additionally, my art also negates art as a cultural product or archivable ‘glorified object’. To escape objecthood is to give rise to the possibility of the experiential in art. Making art is reaching an end through simultaneity of creation and destruction, as is witnessed in life-making.

Lisa Pollman

1021

Related Topics: Bangladeshi artists, events in Dhaka, Found object, Identity art, Political, Printmaking

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Time, nationhood, resistance: Larissa Sansour’s latest film “In The Future They Ate From The Finest Porcelain” – interview

Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour presents her latest film project In The Future They Ate From The Finest Porcelain at Dubai’s Lawrie Shabibi.

Bethlehem-born, London-based interdisciplinary artist Larissa Sansour merges film, installation and photography and mixes past and present, history and myth in a narrative reclaiming Palestinian nationhood.

Portrait of Larissa Sansour.

Portrait of Larissa Sansour.

Larissa Sansour‘s solo exhibition In The Future They Ate From The Finest Porcelain” runs until 3 March 2016 at Lawrie Shabibi gallery, Dubai. Drawing the title from her latest film of the same name, the Palestinian artist explores the themes of identity and resistance through the means of science fiction.

Art Radar and Larissa Sansour talk about the film, digging into the historical research underneath the project, as well as the key characters and themes investigated in the narrative.

I would love to start this conversation by asking you about the use of science fiction in your projects. Why is this relevant to your work? And particularly, how does science fiction help you investigate on the notion of identity, if at all?

Science fiction allows for a flexible reshuffling of time frames. A break in chronology is often necessary in science fiction as realities are forecast in the future or reenacted from the past. A constant in work that uses science fiction is an urgent need to make sense of either the past or the future. It has this inherent quality of interlinking time capsules in a posited formula that replaces what would otherwise be conventional dialogues refraining to the same issues.

The malleability that this genre offers guides my interests in historical narratives and their origins into a revisionist realm. And that in turn of course touches upon identity as you cannot isolate this issue from its historical or geographical context.

Focusing on your recent film In The Future They Ate From The Finest Porcelain screened at Dubai’s Lawrie Shabibi Gallery… What does the film title refer to?

The title of the piece is really at the crux of the framework of temporality in the film. The little sister that the protagonist lost as a young child explains the personal trauma of the rebel, but she also represents the past. The heroine is constantly trying to establish contact with her either in her subconscious or in dreamlike layouts. At some point the interrogator/psychiatrist tells her: “You are devoting your life to communicating with the past and future, but it’s impossible.” When the sister in the final scene looks at the rebel leader, she does not recognise her, because the future (her sister) has changed.

In George Orwell’s novel 1984, this dilemma of temporality and narrative is very relevant: “Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”

Larissa Sansour & Soren Lind, 'In the Future They Ate From the Finest Porcelain', 2014, Film, 29 min. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi and the artists.

Larissa Sansour & Soren Lind, ‘In The Future They Ate From The Finest Porcelain’, 2014, Film, 29 min. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi and the artists.

In your films A Space Exodus (2009) and Nation Estate (2012), you are among the characters on screen. Why in In The Future They Ate From The Finest Porcelain did you decide not to appear?

I have always appeared in my films. I think it started with Bethlehem Bandolero (2005). Back then, I felt it was necessary for me to document every little detail that pertains to myself. In 2002 with the siege of Bethlehem by the Israeli army, it seemed that my 5000-year-old hometown of Bethlehem was on the verge of being erased. This is an actual fear that many Palestinians experience. Palestinian towns have been erased by the state of Israel leaving nothing but memories and some stones from the destroyed buildings.

I needed to document Bethlehem and myself walking through its streets. I guess I needed to register on an undisputed medium such as film, that I and the place that I came from exists. This concern for presence can be seen in a lot of my work, where a lot of my family members also appear in my films. I think in A Space Exodus and Nation Estate, I still felt the need to be there, because the works are very biographical yet surreal. So, in a way, I felt I needed to keep an anchor of sorts. In the new film, I replace my silent presence with a very vocal absence as I am the voice of the protagonist.

In the film, as the press release states, a female protagonist describes herself as a “narrative terrorist”. What do you mean by this expression?

As the rebel leader at some point explains, the issue at hand is no longer about legitimacy, but all about narrative. Legal cases and claims lose out to narrative any day. She also adds that her people’s rulers have long since mentally and practically disqualified her people and their peaceful efforts to resolve their own predicament. Only when they rebel are they registered, as they then occupy the space reserved to them in the narrative of their rulers; but when they behave and play it by the rules, they once again become invisible, or, as the leader puts it, their rulers “unsee them”. The rebel leader aims to counter the narrative advantage of the rulers and to establish a new narrative on behalf of her people, hence the “narrative terrorist” label.

Larissa Sansour, 'In the Future They Ate From the Finest Porcelain', 2014, video still 4. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi and the artist.

Larissa Sansour, ‘In The Future They Ate From The Finest Porcelain’, 2014, video still 4. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi and the artist.

Larissa Sansour, 'Revisionist Production Line', 2016, Installation, 90 x 34 x 355 cm. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi and the artist.

Larissa Sansour, ‘Revisionist Production Line’, 2016, Installation, 90 x 34 x 355 cm. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi and the artist.

Would you expand more on your choice to have in the film “elaborate porcelain decorated with the Keffiyeh motif” as weapons of the unknown opposition group?

The Keffiyeh porcelain functions as a cultural DNA that is buried in the ground for future archaeologists to dig up in the future. These people rather than being unknown, they are posited new people that aren’t entirely different from the present civilisation, yet historically these people possess just enough culturally distinguishable characteristics to set them apart from the existing people in the narrative of the rulers. These characteristics alone will prompt a historical revision as they break away from the reductionist narrative, so in essence her efforts aim to make the unseen seen again, even in times of calm and tranquillity.

The idea that porcelain is used as a weapon is directly linked to the Israeli use of archaeology to justify its presence and lineage. Archaeology is the main theme in the film, which questions the instrumentalisation of archaeology for political purposes. Land legitimacy is established by archaeological finds rather than the rule of law.

Larissa Sansour, 'In the Future They Ate From the Finest Porcelain', Installation view at Lawrie Shabibi. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi.

Larissa Sansour, ‘In The Future They Ate From The Finest Porcelain’, Installation view at Lawrie Shabibi. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi.

This latest work, along with some of your past projects, brings together different media. Particularly, it consists of a short sci-fi film, a series of large scale photographs and an installation. What is the role of each medium? And, why is the use of these three media combined?

A lot of my work deals with the idea of “facts on the ground”. Since I work with sci-fi, I am very intrigued by this crossover between the fictional domain and that of the real. The crockery pieces that you see me eat from in an entirely fictional skyscraper in Nation Estate are now buried in a real place in Palestine, which means that these objects have stopped being part of a fiction and have rather become objects of intervention in the real world.

When it comes to exhibiting the work, this rawness of an organic presence is necessary alongside the film. That is why the actual plates featured in the film are also displayed. The photographs often tell an additional story and a new layer to the film, I think. In Nation Estate, for instance, the photographic works present scenes not present in the film, floors not visited in the short film’s introduction to this nationhood skyscraper. So the photos add to the story by suggesting further dimensions to the limited environment making it onto film.

Larissa Sansour, 'In the Future They Ate From the Finest Porcelain', 2014, C-print, 100 x 200 cm. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi.

Larissa Sansour, ‘In The Future They Ate From The Finest Porcelain’, 2014, C-print, 100 x 200 cm. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi.

The narrator in the film cannot tell the meaning of the ceramic rain, would you instead be able to explain more about this image to us?


This scene references the many plagues that appear in the Old Testament. The plagues usually forecast doom and a warning for the people involved. Most sci-fi warns of the apocalypse and the end of time, if things are left the way they are, and for me this looming apocalypse is a significant reason why I am attracted to the genre.

As I do come from the mythical town of Bethlehem, all the copious biblical allusions in the film seem to go hand in hand with the politics of the place – a place so surreal, where legal matters and legitimacy take a backseat to biblical claims in the court of law.

The porcelain rain is an omen for the apocalypse and an uncomfortable recurring dream for the rebel when her elaborate plan to save her people becomes too much to bear. But as plagues are usually tools divinely employed to stifle antagonists and favour the hero, perhaps this dream of falling porcelain also carries a discrete optimism.

Larissa Sansour, 'In the Future They Ate From the Finest Porcelain', 2014, video still 41. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi and the artist.

Larissa Sansour, ‘In The Future They Ate From The Finest Porcelain’, 2014, video still 41. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi and the artist.

Landscapes in the film are imbued with a feeling of tragic deep pessimism, recalling the apocalyptic mood of novels like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Is this the way you feel about our future? Could you expand more on this sentiment?



I was very touched by the The Road. I think the beauty of humanity is highlighted in the book against the framework of unimaginable horror scenarios.

The landscapes in the film do signify the rebel functioning in a dystopia. In fact, she suggests that the apocalypse has already happened in Palestine: “It’s not that cataclysmic event we all expect, it sneaks up on you little by little.”

Larissa Sansour, 'In the Future They Ate From the Finest Porcelain', 2014, C-print, 100 x 200 cm. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi.

Larissa Sansour, ‘In The Future They Ate From The Finest Porcelain’, 2014, C-print, 100 x 200 cm. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi.

In the film, present and past intertwine. However, the past is represented through a series of static figures, cut out from archive photographs, standing in the image space without really influencing the flow of the narrative. Could you expand more on the notion of time in both this project and your work as a whole?

The concept of time is crucial, yet it remains at least tentatively undefined with past, present and future merging throughout. The past is represented by archival photographs from Palestinian history, and the selection is intended to represent a thorough cross-section of society. I have mainly chosen portraits of people looking directly into the camera, in an attempt to transgress historical boundaries and suggest a direct appeal and dialogue.

The piercing and insistent eyes are meant to communicate an active presence, and to accentuate that some archival elements have been subtly animated, such as the smoke emerging from the pipe of an old Bedouin woman and the rustling of an old archival man’s beard. Also, all of the originally black and white archival images appearing in the film have been coloured to match the overall colour scheme of the film. This is another effort to bridge the temporal gap and blur the distinction between past, present and future.

But the past is not only represented by the archival images. Also the two young live action girls wearing their folkloric costumes initially form part of the distant past, only to suddenly spring to life and merge with the present. Whether appearing alone or as a backdrop for the live action, these archival images testify to the quiet, but perpetual presence of history in any dialogue on Palestine.

In my most recent science fiction work, temporal dislodgement and forecasting play a central role. The Palestinian predicament is curiously suspended between past, present and future, with eternal forecasting attempting to shut down an untenable present, yet with nothing but references to the past as its building blocks. With no acceptable present available, nostalgia plays a big part in shaping ideas of the future, and I tend to adapt and employ this nostalgia alongside projections into the future in order to make sense of the present.

Carmen Stolfi

1014

Related topics: Palestinian artists, interviews, gallery shows, film, identity, memory, nationalism, events in Dubai

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Confronting the archive, reconstructing History: Yto Barrada’s “Faux Guide” at Carré d’Art in Nîmes

Yto Barrada reconstructs contemporary Moroccan history through an examination of historical objects in her latest exhibition at Carré d’Art, the Musée d’Art Contemporaine in Nîmes.

French-born Moroccan artist Yto Barrada’s investigation into identity and cultural roots reveals a fascination with her home country’s historical objects, the ways in which they have been collected and the forgery industry that has developed around them.

Yto Barrada, “Faux Guide”, installation view at Carré d'Art - Musée d'Art contemporain de Nîmes, 2015. Photo credit: David Huguenin.

Yto Barrada, “Faux Guide”, installation view at Carré d’Art – Musée d’Art Contemporain de Nîmes, 2015. Photo: David Huguenin.

Moroccan multimedia artist Yto Barrada (b. 1971, Paris) uses photography, video and installation to confront identity and cultural roots in her current exhibition “Faux Guide”. As an individual with a dual identity Barrada is intimately familiar with cultural ties that situate identity in places other than their countries of origin. Born in Paris to Moroccan parents and raised in Tangier, Barrada, as described by art critic Elisabeth Vedrenne in December 2015, is

steeped in the history of the France’s historical and political relations with Morocco, between the North and the South.”

“Faux Guide” (16 October 2015 – 13 March 2016) at the Carré d’Art – Musée d’Art Contemporain in Nîmes is simultaneously an exploration into Moroccan identity and the notion of roots, but also an investigation into how Moroccan historical objects have been collected and displayed. Additionally, Barrada acknowledges the industry of forgeries that has built up around archaeological sites to satisfy the hungry appetite of collectors desiring a personal piece of Moroccan history.

As the exhibition title suggests, history is often a false point of departure for reliable information on cultural roots and identity. Barrada’s work asks us to consider the reliability of objects, the ways in which they were collected and the stories that become history as a result.

Yto Barrada, 'Untitled (painted educational boards found in Natural History Museum, never opened, Azilal, Morocco)', detail, 2013-2015, chromogenic print, 70 x 70 cm. In "Faux Guide”, at Carré d'Art - Musée d'Art contemporain de Nîmes. ©Yto Barrada 2015, Courtesy Pace London and Sfeir-Semler Gallery.

Yto Barrada, ‘Untitled (painted educational boards found in Natural History Museum, never opened, Azilal, Morocco)’ (detail), 2013-2015, chromogenic print, 70 x 70 cm. © Yto Barrada 2015. Image courtesy Pace London and Sfeir-Semler Gallery.

In a previous iteration, “Faux Guide” was presented at London’s Pace Gallery during summer of 2015, and the online magazine Artlyst described the archaeologic aspects of the exhibition in this way:

The act of collecting—by the scientist and ethnographer; the artist; the museum curator; the amateur collector; to the child collecting rocks that look like camels—is both a preoccupation of the exhibit and it’s mode of presentation. Barrada’s new body of work also appropriates aspects of museum practice— including the readymade and the vitrine—as part of its conceptual strategy.

Yto Barrada, 'Untitled (Album de dessins indigènes)', © Musée du quai Branly, Paris; Mission Therese Riviere, CA 1930s, 2014-2015, chromogenic print, 40 x 40 cm. © Yto Barrada 2015. Image courtesy Pace London and Sfeir-Semler Gallery.

Yto Barrada, ‘Untitled (Album de dessins indigènes)’, © Musée du quai Branly, Paris; Mission Therese Riviere, CA 1930s, 2014-2015, chromogenic print, 40 x 40 cm. © Yto Barrada 2015. Image courtesy Pace London and Sfeir-Semler Gallery.

By reappropriating and re-performing these very same practices, Barrada reminds us that identity is comprised not solely of how one views him or herself, but is also based on an external, third party lens. Barrada embodies the external lens in her images of toys and educational boards amassed during Morocco’s colonial period by French collectors such as Thérèse Rivière, a French ethnographer who collected drawings, toys and sounds.

Thérèse Rivière merits mention as she was a student of French sociologist, and nephew of Emile Durkheim, Marcel Mauss who created a methodology for collecting during this period. These ideas, many of which were outlined in Mauss’ book The Gift, were taken a step further by Marechal Lyautey, administrator of France in Morocco who implemented a national heritage preservation project and planned the reorganisation of craft work. Lyautey created the Indigenous Arts Service managed by Prosper Ricard that would create museums to stimulate the revival of craft creation.

Yto Barrada, 'Carcharodontosaurus Toy', 2015, wood, 43 x 52 x 23 cm. In "Faux Guide”, at Carré d'Art - Musée d'Art contemporain de Nîmes. ©Yto Barrada 2015, Courtesy Pace London and Sfeir-Semler Gallery.

Yto Barrada, ‘Carcharodontosaurus Toy’, 2015, wood, 43 x 52 x 23 cm. © Yto Barrada 2015. Image courtesy Pace London and Sfeir-Semler Gallery.

The notion of recreation or better yet, reassembly, evident in the archive, is very clearly not lost on Barrada. She explores it without reserve in her mixed media work Plumber Assemblage, where she takes previously used and discarded pipes, the very same used by plumbers in Tangiers’ Grand Socco square to advertise their skills, and reassembles them attaching shower heads and other parts to create “makeshift tripods” (PDF download).

Yto Barrada, 'Plumber Assemblage', 2015, mixed media, 150 x 230 x 125 cm. In "Faux Guide”, at Carré d'Art - Musée d'Art contemporain de Nîmes. ©Yto Barrada 2015, Courtesy Pace London and Sfeir-Semler Gallery.

Yto Barrada, ‘Plumber Assemblage’, 2015, mixed media, 150 x 230 x 125 cm. © Yto Barrada 2015, Courtesy Pace London and Sfeir-Semler Gallery.

Barrada’s film Faux Départ (False start) goes a step further as it reveals fossil excavations in the regions between the Atlas Mountains Sahara desert and a thriving industry of counterfeiters that has developed to meet the demand from museums and collectors wanting a piece of history. Barrada reveals that fabricating history is easily done but, she asks, at what cost and to what end?

Yto Barrada, “Faux Guide”, installation view at Carré d'Art - Musée d'Art contemporain de Nîmes, 2015. Photo credit: David Huguenin.

Yto Barrada,’Faux Départ’, 2015, video. Photo: David Huguenin.

Thus contextualised, “Faux Guide” is a lens through which audiences can begin to chip away at constructed histories, which over the course of time have become inextricably tied up in Moroccan identity. In one sense it is Barrada’s declaration that Moroccan historical narrative and its presentation has been so manufactured that we may never know the truth. Another reading suggests that truth can be resurrected by a thorough examination of the ephemera left by previous generations.

Undoubtedly what shines through in this exhibition, as a result of Barrada’s head on confrontation with this archival material, is a coming to grips with the leavings of modernity. As Lunette Rouges noted in her June 2015 article in Le Monde,

Barrada inserts herself into a much broader problem, that of the true, the Museum, aesthetics, the modern. This entire exhibition is thus a questioning of modernism.

Negarra A. Kudumu

1022

Related topics: Moroccan artists, found object, mixed media, video, identity art, museum shows, events in France

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Contextualising Contemporary South Asian art: Diana Campbell Betancourt on Dhaka Art Summit 2016 – interview

Chief Curator Diana Campbell Betancourt speaks to Art Radar about the third edition of the world’s largest non-commercial platform for South Asia’s art, Dhaka Art Summit.

Dhaka Art Summit (DAS) returns to Dhaka at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy in partnership with the country’s National Academy of Fine and Performing Arts from 5 to 8 February 2016. Chief Curator of DAS and Artistic Director of Samdani Art Foundation, Diana Campbell Betancourt speaks to Art Radar about the artists, concepts and programming for DAS 2016.

Portrait of Dhaka Art Summit Chief Curator Diana Campbell Betancourt.

Portrait of Dhaka Art Summit Chief Curator Diana Campbell Betancourt.

Dhaka Art Summit (DAS) is the foremost bi-annual nonprofit event on contemporary South Asian art founded by the Samdani Art Foundation. 2016 edition’s curatorial team is led by the by Diana Campbell Betancourt bringing together international art professionals from international museums including Tate Modern, Centre Pompidou and the Kunsthalle Zurich with South Asian partners.

This year, the event will be expanding their programming to include architecture, film, experimental writing and exhibitions focusing on historical works from the 20th century.

Art Radar spoke with DAS Chief Curator Diana Campbell Betancourt on this year’s concepts behind the exhibitions and programmes.

Anwar Jalal Shemza, 'Untitled (Linear Composition in Green and Red)', 1965, ink on handmade paper, 97x57cm, Collection Amrita Jhaveri.

Anwar Jalal Shemza, ‘Untitled (Linear Composition in Green and Red)’, 1965, ink on handmade paper, 97x57cm. Collection Amrita Jhaveri.

The Dhaka Art Summit (DAS) was well received in 2014 with 70,000 visitors. What were some of the goals, and accomplishments to date? And what do you hope to achieve with this year’s edition?

We wanted to contextualise Contemporary South Asian art within a historical framework and make room for outliers in this edition of DAS and expand out what a regional exhibition can be – which can be seen by the inclusion of “Rewind” and artists such as Bagyi Aung Soe and Germaine Krull who often get left out of this discussion, and also having diaspora artists and artists with “unconventional” relationships to South Asia such as Christopher Kulendran Thomas, Lynda Benglis, and Tino Sehgal.

The names people expect from Bangladesh are not in the programme of the 2016 Summit – such as Tayeba Begum Lipi, Mahbubur Rahman and Naeem Mohaiemen, to name specific examples who are now widely exhibited in the West. These artists’ careers have blossomed since their exhibitions at the first two Dhaka Art Summits and we want to expose all of our visitors to new talent that they might not be aware of. We also have taken loans from leading collections, both private and public in Bangladesh and wider South Asia, to provide new access to artistic treasures held behind closed doors in the country and region.

The Dhaka Art Summit has registered as one of the most anticipated art events in South Asia – and the success is primarily measured by how the local audience has embraced the summit. We have had to extend the hours of the summit by two hours daily this edition, and also extend by an extra day to cater to all of the schools and parents who are interested in attending the summit. We are launching our Exhibition Guide two weeks before the Summit so that teachers can prepare their classes for their visits.

Left to right: Nadia Samdani, Rajeeb Samdani and Diana Campbell Betancourt in Basel. Copyright Samdani Art Foundation. Photo: Puneet Shah.

Left to right: Nadia Samdani, Rajeeb Samdani and Diana Campbell Betancourt in Basel. Photo: Puneet Shah. Copyright Samdani Art Foundation.

Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani of Samdani Art Foundation, are the founders and visionaries behind the DAS biennial. Could you talk a bit about the collectors, their South Asian art collection and your role as the Artistic Director of the foundation?

Nadia and Rajeeb Samdani founded the Summit and came up with this brilliant idea to have a South Asia focused non-profit platform and to build a dedicated South Asian collection, and to further their knowledge and others’ research in this regard. Their contribution is so much more than resources, it is passion, commitment, and vision – and they are the best patrons a curator could ask for.

Part of the brilliance of their strategy is that they do not have any input into the Artistic Programme, which I am fully in charge of – which makes us very unique because finances do not affect the selection process for the programme. In a world where people cater to sponsors and visitor numbers,this special aspect of the summit makes us very unique. I appoint an artistic team, we come up with proposals for our exhibitions and select the artists, and if we need extra funds, we fundraise from the content. We do not let funds dictate our programme.

The Samdani Art Foundation is a very dedicated and personal one and to draw together a collection of Modern and Contemporary South Asian art… there is a lot of field work involved to collect Bangladeshi masters from Pakistan and Burmese masters from unusual sources in Myanmar. We also collect Western artists whose work was inspired by South Asia – from Rembrandt, to Boetti, to Matisse, and Western Artists who influenced Modernism in South Asia, such as Paul Klee who was an influence for Anwar Jalal Shemza, Zahoor ul Akhlaq and of course Tagore.

I think the dedication to research and the spirit of generosity to share this research with Bangladeshi communities (and the rest of the world who comes to visit and who borrows from the collection) really makes their collection unique. I also advise their collection as the Artistic Director of the foundation, which is why I am constantly travelling sourcing works and furthering our research. They are very committed collectors with a long-term vision.

Yasmin Jahan Nupur, Photo from performance workshop. Courtesy the artist and the Samdani Art Foundation.

Yasmin Jahan Nupur, Photo from performance workshop. Image courtesy the artist and the Samdani Art Foundation.

Could you also describe your role as Chief Curator of DAS?

I appoint all of the curators and give input to all of the curators’ proposals and propositions. Logistically this means I also have to sign all of the loan forms, proof read and fact check all of the texts, and liaise with our architects and exhibition designers to make sure each curators’ needs are met. In a way it can be seen as “curating the curators” and the Architect of the artistic programme – I set up an environment where their propositions can flourish without getting bogged down by logistical constraints – of which there are MANY in Bangladesh. A curator working in London would not be aware of import rules between South Asian countries, but I am.

I also take a holistic view to draw connections across the different sections, which you can see when you visit the summit. We hope to give guided tours that span across shows rather than linear ones within shows. I have an amazing team supporting these artistic decisions – and as the Artistic Director of the Samdani Art Foundation I also manage the team of the Samdani Art Foundation.

Po Po, 'VIP Project (Dhaka)', 2015. Commissioned and produced by the Samdani Art Foundation for the Dhaka Art Summit, 2016. Image courtesy the artist and the Samdani Art Foundation.

Po Po, ‘VIP Project (Dhaka)’, 2015. Commissioned and produced by the Samdani Art Foundation for the Dhaka Art Summit, 2016. Image courtesy the artist and the Samdani Art Foundation.

This year’s expansive programme includes architecture and critical writing with an international team of curators and art professionals participating in the Summit. Could you talk about the programmes planned for the Summit, and how this expansive programme came about?

The programme came about because I wanted a programme to expand the scope of what a regional exhibition could mean – inspired by Tagore’s Santiniketan Kala Bhavan which translates “the whole world in one nest”. Having that in mind, DAS programme combines talks with exhibitions, screenings, performances, an historical exhibition and much more.

Sandeep Mukherjee, 'Bleach Painting', courtesy of the artist and Project 88

Sandeep Mukherjee, ‘Bleach Painting’. Image courtesy of the artist and Project 88.

The “Solo Projects” will present 17 solo projects, from which 13 newly commissioned works and four works reconfigured within the Bangladeshi context. It will include works by Lynda Benglis and Tino Sehgal with Shumon Ahmed, Tun Win Aung and Wah Nu, Haroon Mirza, Sandeep Mukherjee, Po Po, Ayesha Sultana, Munem Wasif and more.

Nalini Malani, Photograms 1970 and Utopia 1969-76 courtesy of the artist and Kiran Nadar Museum of Art

Left to right: Nalini Malani, ‘Photograms’, 1970 and ‘Utopia’, 1969-76. Image courtesy the artist and Kiran Nadar Museum of Art.

Waqas Khan, The text in continuum, 2015, ink on paper, metal 239 x 270 cm, Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Krinzinger, Vienna

Waqas Khan, ‘The Text in Continuum’, 2015, ink on paper, metal, 239 x 270 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Galerie Krinzinger, Wien.

DAS first historical exhibition “Rewind” will show works by 13 artists that were active before the 1980s, from which many will be shared with the public for the first time in over 30 years, such as Waqas Khan.

The Missing One”, exhibition curated by Nada Raza, Curator Assistant at Tate Modern ties with sci-fi literature, having alienation and dystopia as its plot and includes works by Ronni Ahmmed, David Alesworth, Shishir Bhattacharjee, Fahd Burki, Neha Choksi, Iftikhar and Elizabeth Dadi, among others.

There’s also the “Film Programme”, curated by Shanay Jhaveri with works by over 35 international filmmakers and artists; “Mining Warm Data”, group show with works from artists from Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Tibet, Nepal, and Bangladesh and the wider diaspora; “Architecture in Bangladesh”, curated by Aurelién Lemonier, Architecture Curator at Centre Pompidou, featuring Jalal Ahmed, Nahas Ahmed Khalil, Raziul Ahsan, Rafiq Azam, Mazharul Islam, Salauddin Ahmed Potash, Uttam Kumar Saha, Chetana Society, Marina Tabassum, Urbana and Shamsul Wares, among others.

Moreover, DAS presents a Performance Pavillion, curated by Nikhil Chopra, Madhavi Gore, and Jana Prepeluh; “The Samdani Art Award exhibition”; the new section “Critical Writing Ensembles”, bringing together leading writers, critics, poets, philosophers and curators; a Panel Discussions programme; the Asia Art Archive first Live Feed Station, DAS edition of the Safina Radio Project; the Children’s Workshop by VAST Bhutan; an exhibition by Bangladeshi art entitled “আত্মঅন্বেষ, Soul Searching” curated by Md. Muniruzzaman and a section devoted to Bangladeshi art spaces, providing a platform for visitors to experience the work of 10 galleries and non-profit organisations in the non-commercial context of the summit.

The Dhaka Art Summit has a unique format, which is not a biennial, not a symposium, not a festival, but rather somewhere in-between and removed from the pressures of the art market. It is the main meeting point for art professionals from the region and a generative space to reconsider the past and future of art and exchange within South Asia and the rest of the world.

Shumon Ahmed Land of the Free 2009. Courtesy of the artist and Project88

Shumon Ahmed, ‘Land of the Free’, 2009. Image courtesy the artist and Project88.

In this third iteration, you’ve curated “Solo Projects” with newly commissioned and reconfigured works by artists such as Lynda Benglis, Tino Sehgal, Shumon Ahmed, Simryn Gill, Haroon Mirza, Sandeep Mukherjee, Po Po, Wawas Khan and Dayanita Singh, as well as emerging artists Ayesha Sultana, Waqas Khan and Munem Wasif. Why is it important for DAS to commission new works for this Summit? And how did you select the artists and artworks for this project?

It is important to commission new works in the region because in some countries like Myanmar, there is little support for artists to create new works, and the same works circulate all over the world. Dhaka Art Summit is a generative space, and we want people to come and see something new and for works created in Bangladesh and for Bangladesh to have lives elsewhere – as the commissioned works belong to the artists after the summit is over (in some rare cases we acquire from the summit, but it is always through the artist and their gallery – as DAS is not a collection building platform).

Dayanita Singh Museum of Chance. Image courtesy of the artist

Dayanita Singh, ‘Museum of Chance’, 2015. Image courtesy the artist

Commissioning is not the right route for every artist, so it takes a lot of research to see who one wants to embark on this journey with. These artists were selected for the strength of their overall practice and brought together to show the diversity of work happening in the region, and we worked together on projects that as a whole show the wide variety of factors that shape an individual – from trauma, to genetics, to self-esteem, to physical bodily reactions to the environment. This is very important today in Bangladesh – where a common saying is that Bangladeshis are in the midst of an identify crisis of whether to be Muslim, Bengali or Bangladeshi.

The “Solo Projects” open up the viewers’ thoughts to explore the space for plurality of identity and cultural self-determination. I also curated a group show called “Mining Warm Data” and the Talks Programme, as well as the overall structure of the summit.

Haroon Mirza, The national pavilion of then and now, 2011, Anechoic chamber, LED’s, amp, speakers, electronic circuit, approx 800 x 700 x 330cm © the artist; Courtesy, Lisson Gallery, London

Haroon Mirza, ‘The National Pavilion of Then and Now’, 2011, Anechoic chamber, LED’s, amp, speakers, electronic circuit, approx 800 x 700 x 330cm. © the artist. Image courtesy Lisson Gallery, London.

In 2014, there were over 250 artists exhibiting their works at DAS. Could you highlight some of the artist and their works from this year’s Summit?

Haroon Mirza’s National Apavilion of Then and Now (2011), Zihan Karim’s Eye (2014), Maryam Jafri’s Getty vs. Ghana (2012), Lida Abdul’s Speaking and Hearing (1999-2001), SM Sultan’s watercolours from the 1950s on loan from the Bangladesh National Museum, Ali Asgar’s performance in the performance pavilion, Lynda Benglis’s phosphorescent works in the solo projects, Ali Kazim’s beautiful watercolour Other Land (2013), Kashef Chowdhury’s models in Aurelien Lemonier’s architecture exhibition… there are too many to choose from! Of course Waqas Khan’s monumental books will also be incredible.

Tenzing Rigdol, Monologue #2. USA, 2014 24k gold on treated canvas 76 x 61 cm (30 x 24 in) Courtesy of the artist and Rossi & Rossi, London

Tenzing Rigdol, ‘Monologue #2’, USA, 2014, 24k gold on treated canvas, 76 x 61 cm (30 x 24 in). Image courtesy the artist and Rossi & Rossi, London.

According to DAS press release, this project will “celebrate pluralism and look at the fluid continuum of birth and experience in becoming an individual”. Could you elaborate on this theme?

Please see catalogue essay. [DB quotes from it] “The approach I took as Artistic Director of the Summit has opened up new spatial constellations to break up an exhibition that might be dictated by geopolitical coordinates to instead allow for an emphasis on exchange – cultural, regional, trans-regional, national, intergenerational – in a serious and profound way that illuminates how South Asian visual culture and heritage and its makers are interacting with other (art) histories.

The Dhaka Art Summit defines and then challenges the concept of the region itself, all from a place previously considered peripheral even within South Asia.In the spirit of diversity of the region, seventeen Solo Projects explore the elements that shape human experience, going beyond self-fashioning to examine darker moments of trauma, barbarism and displacement. These, primarily new, works break away from literal definitions traditionally ascribed to the region, and take a humanistic approach…”

To read the full essay, please click here (PDF DOWNLOAD).

Lida Abdul, Speaking and Hearing, 1999 – 2001 Video Courtesy of the artist and Giorgio Persano Galler

Lida Abdul, ‘Speaking and Hearing’, 1999 – 2001, Video. Image courtesy the artist and Giorgio Persano Galler.

One of the shortlisted Bangladeshi artists of Samdani Art Award, Ayesha Sultana, was selected for the residency programme at Delfina Foundation in 2014. Could you talk about some of the noteworthy artists on this year’s list, and why do you find the artist and their artworks interesting or relevant?

This would not be fair to the jury – so I have to pass on this – but you can take a look at their works in the guide and decide for yourself. What I can say is that the shortlist was meant to only have ten artists, but Daniel Baumann insisted on having 13 because the works were just so strong!

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in South Asian artists with exhibitions such as “No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia” by Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative in 2013. Why do you think there is an increasing international focus on South Asian art now?

The quality of the work being created is exceptionally strong, and it has been for a long time, the rest of the world is only now waking up to it, as current shows of artists such as Gaitonde and Nasreen Mohamedi can attest to. It’s also important to note that the work of Tayeba Begum Lipi in “No Country” had its debut at the first Dhaka Art Summit.

What are some of the challenges faced by South Asian artists?

A lack of resources (which mean many do not have studios, like in Myanmar and Bangladesh), a lack of conservation and a difficult climate in that regard, a lack of government support to help them travel and obtain visas, and a lack of basic infrastructure, from framing to art insurance.

Fahd Burki Saint 2011. Courtesy of the artist and Grey Noise

Fahd Burki, ‘Saint’, 2011. Image courtesy the artist and Grey Noise.

Bangladesh has been described as the art hub of South Asia. What is the current art scene in Bangladesh?

It’s extremely vibrant and I think Daniel Baumann, Director of Kunsthalle Zurich, captures this very well in his introductory text to the Samdani Art Award. There is no market for contemporary art in Bangladesh, so artists are not churning out commercial works – they are really pushing experimental boundaries. Most photography experts will agree that the best photographers in South Asia of the “next generation” are in Bangladesh, even Pablo Bartholomew says that.

Daniel Baumann writes about the works by shortlisted artists for Samdani Art Award: “What made me think that “something was going on here?“ First of all the quality of works by these twenty artists… The artists obviously knew the language of art (thanks to education and the Internet), but they firmly and proudly applied it to their current context. This was best visible for the numerous photographic positions, many of them coming out of the Pathshala South Asian Media Institute… Their works and approaches seem to form a strong current at the moment, a current that I tried to understand as an urge to build up a visual memory and culture for a very young country at the brink of maybe a new era. All of their work pick up important issues of the moment such as the menacing destruction of places and subcultures such as Old Dhaka, the highly problematic, nevertheless fascinating dismantling of ghost ships, the huge social differences Bangladesh is built on, and the potentially taboo-laden relationships between the sexes and religion.

Beside this large group of photographic works, the selection for the 2016 Samdani Art Award and its exhibition emphasize on singular positions in painting (Farzana Ahmed Urmi), sculpture (Rupam Roy and Shimul Shaha), film and photography (Rafiqul Shuvo), film and performance (Palash Bhattacharjee) and printmaking (Ashit Mitra). Farzana Ahmed Urmi offers light and deep variations of portraits, Rupam Roy and Shimul Shaha venture into alternative forms of sculpture, Ashit Mitra transforms printmaking into an art of time and beauty, Palash Bhattacharjee virtuously combines film, performance and memory while Rafiqul Shuvo sets film and photography free from their duty to document. Initially, I was asked to choose ten artists for the final list. However, the quality was such that I could only narrow it down to thirteen. What more of a compliment is there to the thriving Bangladeshi art scene? Something is definitely going on there.”

What were some of the responses from the media and visitors for the past two Summits?

It has been overwhelmingly positive! All of the reviews, in fact, were positive both from visitors and the press.

Tun Win Aung and Wah Nu, 'Ipso Facto', 2011-2013, 6 paintings (emulsion on linen, net, 275 x 580 cm each) and video (colour, with sound, 20 min. 54 sec.), approximately 7 x 16 x 3 m overall. Work realised within the framework of the exhibition at the Atelier Hermès thanks to the support of the Fondation d'entreprise Hermès. Image courtesy Atelier Hermès and nnncl workshop.

Tun Win Aung and Wah Nu, ‘Ipso Facto’, 2011-2013, 6 paintings (emulsion on linen, net, 275 x 580 cm each) and video (colour, with sound, 20 min. 54 sec.), approximately 7 x 16 x 3 m overall. Work realised within the framework of the exhibition at the Atelier Hermès thanks to the support of the Fondation d’entreprise Hermès. Image courtesy Atelier Hermès and nnncl workshop.

How do you see South Asian art in the global context now and in five years?

2017 will be a huge year in terms of Indian (and possibly South Asian) art in the UK – as there is a pool of funds called “imagining India” that institutions in the UK are vying for – and many of these institutions are coming to Dhaka Art Summit for their research. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has just hired a brilliant curator (Shanay Jhaveri who is on my Dhaka Art Summit team) to be their first curator of Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art and the Met is expanding this department over the next five years into a new wing as well as the Breuer Building, the Venice Architecture Biennale is including Bangladeshi artists, Documenta is including South Asian Artists, so there will be a lot of opportunities to drive and inspire artists internationally, as well as in the region with intitiatives like the Kochi Muziris Biennale, which also used Dhaka Art Summit as their research platform to select artists for the 2014 edition – and Bose and Sudarshan will both be attending the summit, which we hope means much to look forward to in 2016.

We have 61 institutions and counting from outside Bangladesh visiting the 2016 summit as a research platform – which we hope means at least 61 new places for South Asian art to flourish in the future.

And I also cannot leave off the Samdani Art Foundation Art Centre opening in Sylhet in 2018 – which will be a “permanent” Dhaka Art Summit in a beautiful rural 100+ acre plot in North East Bangladesh.

Christine Lee

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Related Topics: curatorial practice, interviews, Bangladeshi artists, Indian artists, Pakistani artists, biennials, events in Dhaka

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