Samdani Art Foundation, in collaboration with Alserkal, recently hosted a major art exhibition titled Fabric(ated) Fractures at Concrete, Alserkal Avenue, Dubai, UAE.
The group exhibition, featuring 15 artists of Bangladeshi, South Asian, and Southeast Asian origins, boasted of bringing together diverse arts and artists beyond borders, creating a fantastic platform for artistic and cultural exchange between two countries.
The group exhibition, curated by Diana Campbell Betancourt, Samdani Art Foundation Artistic Director and Chief Curator of Dhaka Art Summit, featured works by 15 artists -- Pablo Bartholomew, Rashid Choudhury, Kanak Chanpa Chakma, Rajesh Vangad and Gauri Gill, Shilpa Gupta, Hitman Gurung, Ayesha Jatoi, Ashfika Rahman, Joydeb Roaja, Reetu Sattar, Kamruzzaman Shadhin, Debasish Shom, Jakkai Siributr and Munem Wasif. Eight of the 15 artists were from Bangladesh.
“Dhaka Art Summit is a continuous exercise in challenging how the world sees Bangladesh and how Bangladesh sees herself,” said Diana Campbell Betancourt, Curator of the exhibition. “I’m delighted that we are able to extend this conversation through this project in Dubai, both through the exhibition as well as the powerful performance programme which puts the human at the centre of the exhibition through poetic and artistic gestures by Ayesha Jatoi, Reetu Sattar, and Joydeb Roaja.”
Fabric(ated) Fractures provided a platform to amplify the voices of artists from Bangladesh and South and Southeast Asia, and explores ‘sensitive spaces’—spaces that challenge ideas of nation, state, and territory. The exhibition design intervenes in the architecture of Concrete, spanning its height with community-based artworks that are humanist acts of insurgency against rising polarisation in the region (and the rest of the world), and grounding the exhibition in a more porous pre-colonial past through the use of a vernacular mud floor found in many South Asian villages.
Nadia Samdani, Co-Founder and President of the Samdani Art Foundation, and Director of the Dhaka Art Summit, spoke about the significance of presenting South Asian artists in a global art hub. “Various art projects of previous Dhaka Art Summits travel around the world until the next summit. This exhibition is part of such initiative,” she said. “The interesting aspects of the show are the representation of works by three-generation Bangladeshi artists --- modernist master Rashid Choudhury, renowned artist Kanak Chanpa Chakma and internationally acclaimed contemporary artists. The display demonstrated our commissioned works by Reetu Sattar and Kamruzzaman Shadhin. The Museum of Modern Art, New York has now acquired, Reetu’s work while Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, exhibited Shadhin’s work.”
About the collaboration and response from the audience, Rajeeb Samdani, the Co-Founder and Trustee of the Samdani Art Foundation, said, “Alserkal Avenue, has been the partner of Dhaka Art Summit since its 2016 edition. Through Alserkal Avenue, and its renowned cultural district of contemporary art galleries, UAE has become one of the global hub of contemporary art.” The response from the audience was tremendous, as the 2019 Sharjah Biennial was simultaneously running. We for the first time, declared the 2020 Dhaka Art Summit to be held in February next year in Dhaka, during the exhibition in Dubai.” He mentioned that this was the first official launching of the summit outside Europe.
“Our relationship with the Samdani Art Foundation began long before this exhibition. From our very first encounter, the foundation’s values echoed strongly with our own. As we discovered the various commonalities in our mandates, we explored ways to further bring our shared vision to life: making interdisciplinary dialogue part of the fabric of our contemporary societies; supporting cultural practitioners as they explore their practices; and creating a platform for artistic and discursive exchange,” said Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, founder of Alserkal.
While this exhibition was born within the borders of what is now considered Bangladesh, Fabric(ated) Fractures examines how the lines demarcating this young country are constantly shifting. The waters that move across Bangladesh’s edges are shared with India and Myanmar, flowing into wider border issues that extend into Thailand, Pakistan, and Nepal—the countries that the 15 artists in this exhibition come from. Their works break down reductive national and regional narratives, and reformulate them from a more local and human perspective.
The militarisation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts inspires the drawings of Joydeb Roaja, who comes from the indigenous Tripura community. The military motifs from the Generation Wish Yielding Trees and Atomic Tree series are reflected in his alpona installation in The Yard in Alserkal Avenue, which can be viewed throughout the duration of the exhibition. Through his work, Pablo Bartholomew traces the links between geographically fractured indigenous Chakma communities (ethnic minorities in Myanmar, India, and Bangladesh), weaving together science, myth, legend, and tradition to explore a cross-border ethnic identity in an installation comprised of photographs and woven textiles. The Bangladeshi artist Kanak Chanpa Chakma revisits the ‘Ramu Incident’ through her series of paintings, soul piercing, juxtaposing photographic documentation and newspaper clippings from the 2012 incident against imagery of peaceful Buddhist architecture.
Speaking to the potential found in seeing through multiple points of view, the late Rashid Choudhury’s majestic woven tapestries allude to village life in Bengal prior to externally introduced religious divides, and teem with movement, referencing pluralistic rituals of celebration and worship. Ashfika Rahman’s powerful portrait series, Rape is Political, depicts rape victims in the Khagrachari hills area, located at the militarised border between India, Bangladesh, and Myanmar, where state administrative machinery is used to protect rapists.
Reetu Sattar performed Harano Sur (Lost Tune), a piece that focuses on the harmonium, a musical instrument that is tightly integrated into the traditional culture of Bangladesh, but is in danger of disappearing. A film documents a performance that brought together musicians, each playing three notes of the seven notes of the harmonium as part of the exhibition.
Kamruzzaman Shadhin’s installation Haven is Elsewhere was created through a large-scale action: a year and a half spent exchanging the clothes of Rohingya refugees at Bangladesh’s southern border with Southeast Asia for new garments. The refugees’ clothes were joined into a monumental piece of fabric embellished with traditional Bangladeshi kantha embroidery.
Munem Wasif’s haunting series of black and white photographs of the blurred boundary of Bangladesh and India, Land of Undefined Territory, conceals the intense human interaction within its surface.