An exhibition in Kolkata, India, delves into issues of militarisation, violence, captivity and freedom through the work of six artists.
From 7 March to 26 April 2014, Kolkata’s Experimenter gallery is holding a group show entitled “Waiting for the Wind”. The exhibition features video, installations and images that explore the “casualties of strife” and a hope for freedom.
In an interview with news website DNA, Prateek and Priyanka Raja, the Founders of Experimenter, said that “Waiting for the Wind is a very sensitive show that refers to the collective and individual memories that are built in war.” According to the press release, the exhibition is
… a contemplation on freedom, on hope and on dreams. The exhibition brings together work of artists who have deeply engaged with understanding the casualties of strife, the lines of borders, and the wings of freedom within their practice. The exhibition may be viewed as a point of entry to comprehend a possible future or as a punctuation to stop for a moment and breathe the air instead of waiting for the wind.
The artists creating objects, disseminating ideas
The artists participating in “Waiting for the Wind” are:
- Shilpa Gupta (India)
- Iman Issa (Egypt)
- Naeem Mohaiemen (Bangladesh)
- Tushar Joag (India)
- Raqs Media Collective (India)
- Walid Raad (Lebanon)
Somak Ghoshal of LiveMint said of the participating artists:
Each of them, a prominent name in the global art scene, presents work that is spare, with just about enough stimuli to keep the eye arrested and the mind racing. To look at their work is to remind ourselves of the credo of the contemporary artist, who is as much a creator of objects as a generator and disseminator of ideas.
What is AFSPA?
“Waiting for the Wind” takes India’s Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, commonly referred to as AFSPA, as its point of entry. The act, as its name suggests, grants special powers to the armed forces in certain strife-ridden areas and provides them with legal immunity. The controversial act has been effective in North Eastern India for over 50 years, first exercised in Assam and Manipur in 1958 and then in all seven states in the region, as well as in Kashmir since 1990.
AFSPA has been criticised nationally and globally by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, among others, for human rights violations. The United Nations has also asked India to repeal the Act as it is a paradox to democracy, signifying excessive state power and erasing accountability, which makes it liable to misuse.
The militarisation of everyday life
New Delhi-based Raqs Media Collective brings AFSPA into focus through their work A Fortunate Spell of Pleasant Amnesia. It is a digital photograph of a single broken gun, an INSAS 5.56mm LMG/Assault Rifle, hanging from a wire. The gun is used by all Indian military and paramilitary officials and well-recognised wherever AFSPA is in operation.
Shilpa Gupta’s video National Highway No. 1 – 6 mins 28 secs en route Srinagar to a picnic in Gulmarg, Kashmir, is shot from a moving car and effectively juxtaposes the presence of the military with Kashmir’s picturesque landscape.
Tushar Joag uses a wind gauge, which is also used at military airports, along with other objects to depict the Indian Air Force strikes in Mizoram in 1966 against a revolt of the Mizoram National Front. Joag also facilitates performances and readings by local Mizo groups in the exhibition space.
Naeem Mohaiemen’s work Otondro Prohori (Guarding Who?) is an installation of projector slides, photographs and text. It narrates the pressures of living under military rule in Bangladesh in 2007-2008, the arrest of a CNN reporter, and the nationwide revolt and violence in 2007 that erupted from a stand-off between university students and the military.
Images and memory
New York-based artist Iman Issa’s video Proposal for an Iraq War Memorial explores the shape that a memorial of the Iraq War might take. A woman, with no direct connection to the war, talks about Iraq and responds to a variety of found footage and images.
Walid Raad, currently also based in New York, presents Hostage: The Bachar Polaroids. The work is a series of images created in collaboration with Souheli Bachar, who was the only Lebanese national to be kidnapped in 1983 among American hostages and held captive for ten years. During this time he was photographed by his captors, who let him keep the Polaroids that were deemed unworthy for the press. Many of these images had his head and body cut out, which Bachar filled in using whatever materials and colours he had available in his cell.
Related Topics: Bangladeshi artists, Indian artists, Egyptian artists, Lebanese artists, gallery shows, photography, video, installation, picture feast, political art, art about violence, events in Kolkata
- Disrupted Choreographies from Vietnam – in pictures – March 2014 – eight Vietnamese artists explore alternative views of colonisation and alter assumptions of history
- Iranian artist Shirin Neshat on art, politics and changing the world – interview – March 2014 – Iranian-born, self-proclaimed nomadic artist Shirin Neshat talks about the cultural, gendered and political aspects of her critically acclaimed works
- In the shadow of war: Photographer Jamal Penjweny on Iraq today – interview – February 2014 – Iraqi photographer and filmmaker Jamal Penjweny talks about his art projects and the everyday life in Iraq that they portray, a side of the country not often seen in the media
- 4 Pakistani artists making art out of violence – December 2013 – Art Radar profiles four Pakistani artists whose works respond to the sufferings and the devastation provoked by the last decade of violence in their country
- Bangladeshi photojournalist Shahidul Alam’s first UK retrospective – picture feast – December 2011 – London’s Wilmotte Gallery holds the first UK retrospective of works by internationally renowned Bangladeshi photographer and social activist Shahidul Alam
Subscribe to Art Radar for more on exhibitions and gallery shows in Asia