Last year, Bangladeshi photographer Shahidul Alam was jailed and tortured for denouncing his country’s regime. Now his work, which reveals people’s suffering without compromising their dignity, has been shortlisted for the Prix Pictet 2019. Interview by Rachel Spence.
EXHIBITION ‘OF RIVER AND LOST LANDS’ by SARKER PROTICK
‘Of River and Lost Lands’ is presented at iMPACT DOC as a photographic exhibition accompanied by an audio-visual installation that depicts a grey, melancholic landscape of river Padma (Ganges) in Bangladesh.
At first, the place seems abandoned; drowned, broken houses and floating trees are all that remains. These are traces of life that were once here. As the series continues, the land and the people come into view and find their place in the story. Together they portray a complex relationship between nature and human beings that is intimate yet ruthless, defined by dependency and destruction.
The exhibition shows the direct, visible and palpable effects of changes in climate in the final form of irregular devastating monsoons, resulting in increased river erosion in Bangladesh. Most of the places seen in these photographs do not exist anymore. As a result, these photographs survive as visual documents of such vanished lands.
‘SYNTAX / SEMANTICS’ Workshop by Sarker Protick Supported by iMPACT DOC
For one special occasion only, noted Bangladeshi photographer Sarker Protick will conduct a 4-day workshop on visual storytelling and the visual narrative at iMPACT DOC, prior to his lecture and presentation during the Unseen Photo Fair Open Gallery Night 2019.
The workshop is open to photographers and artists interested in exploring the varied possibilities of storytelling and the use of photography combined with other media. In the era of so-called democratization of the media and the overabundance of visual content, it’s important to reflect on the necessity and strategy of telling a certain story. Each story presents different possibilities of language and narrative, suggested both by its context and the author’s influences. We will discuss the choice of best possible methodologies, strategies and tools to define the chosen subject and articulate a coherent narrative.
Installation view of Temporary Certainty a t 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, clockwise left to right: Sarker Protick, Elegy to Empire (f rom the series Exodus), 2015–ongoing, installation view at 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, black & white photographs (selection of 19); 22.5 x 28.0 cm (each photograph); courtesy the artist. Sarker Protick, Arrival (from the series Exodus) , 2015–ongoing, single-channel HD video and sound installation; 8:00 mins; courtesy the artist.
Sarker Protick’s Exodus (2015–ongoing) considers the expediencies of decolonisation while at the same time being a haunting meditation on the universal contingencies of time. Over a selection of photographs and moving image, the artist explores the decaying buildings and surrounding lands of the feudal estates in East Bengal that were previously owned by Hindu jamindars, or landlords. Following the Liberation War of 1971 that abruptly established the newly independent nation of Bangladesh, huge migrations took place across Bengal. This saw wealthy Hindu landowners abandon their estates for India in fear of the kind of violent reprisals that had erupted following the Partition of India in 1947, while at the same time many Muslims fled West Bengal heading east. A series of controversial laws dating from 1948, culminating in the Vested Property Act of 1974, allowed the confiscation of property by Bangladeshi authorities from groups declared ‘enemies of the state’. Since then, these estates have commonly been left in disrepair, taken over by nature and appropriated by local villagers—another chapter in a landscape indelibly marked by the influence of Mughal rule and British imperialism.
When it comes to ways in which artists address ecological issues, actions can be big or small – it’s the action that is important however subtle. In the face of complex environmental problems ‘Bruised: Art Action and Ecology in Asia’ examines how artistic response combined with gentle activism can result in a rich legacy and empower further actions in the community.
Bruised: Art Action and Ecology in Asia is part of the of ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2019 23 April–19 May, a socially-engaged festival of exhibitions, theatre works, keynote lectures, events and artist talks considering climate change impacts and the challenges and opportunities arising from climate change.
In 1970 Satyajit Ray released Aranyer Din Ratri (Days and Nights in the Forest) in Kolkata. In the film, we follow four friends as they escape the daily grind of the city and travel to a forest. Over time, we discover their divergent perspectives and opinions of this shared journey, and see how the meanings of the same road shift and change between individuals.
Pothe Pothe is a different take on the road in South Asia. It is about shifting places, travelogues, long marches and protests, and sometimes just about getting to your destination.
From the hippies of Nepal to Gandhi’s march to Noakhali or Arfun Ahmed’s travel across the borders, Pothe Pothe explores various stories and fragments of life on the road. Its transcends borders, creates new horizons and connects individual and collective experiences across the region.