Referencing the powerful visuals and arts exhibited in different parts of the world by the artists of South-Asian origin, several prominent scholars, curators and art practitioners like Syed Manzoorul Islam, Devika Singh, Iftikhar Dadi, Bani Abidi, Hammad Nasar, Sophie Ernst, Nada Raza, Zehra Jumabhoy, Yasmin Jahan Nupur and Alina Khakoo presented papers and moderated the three sessions of the symposium.
Kettle’s Yard Curatorial Assistant Alina Khakoo shed light on the ‘Tour of Jim Ede and India’ at Edlis Neeson Research Space while Kettle’s Yard Director Andrew Nairne delivered the daylong symposium’s opening remarks.
Moderated by eminent academic, writer and critic Professor Syed Manzoorul Islam, the first session of the symposium focused on art, the everyday and the nation. Professor Iftikhar Dadi (of Cornell University, New York) presented the keynote titled ‘Borders and the Everyday’ with visual presentation of his artworks created and exhibited over the years. Noted curator Dr Zehra Jumabhoy (of Courtauld Institute of Art, London) presented her keynote ‘The Indian Moderns after Midnight’ in the session. The curator’s tour of Homelands at the two exhibition galleries followed.
The more engaging second session, moderated by Dr Devika Singh, was titled ‘On home and belonging’. Joining through Skype from Dhaka, artist Yasmin Jahan Nupur elaborated on her ongoing art project called ‘On Home’ (2019). Berlin-based Pakistani artist Bani Abidi presented her interesting keynote ‘PLEASE DON’T HONK, THIS NATION IS SLEEPING’ with her amazing visual arts in the session. Renowned curator Nada Raza of Courtauld Institute of Art shed light on the paper ‘Unhomely Futures: Altered Inheritance – Home is a Foreign Place with Shilpa Gupta, Zarina Hashmi and Sophie Ernst’.
In this richly polyphonic exhibition, there is no single unifying approach, and no solitary definition of ‘home’. As per their interviews in the catalogue, the artists variously characterise it as ‘a transient dwelling,’ ‘an ongoing process,’ and ‘other people,’ making visitors reflect on their own definition of it.
The concluding session was titled ‘Performing Landscape/Curating Nation’. Berlin-based artist Dr Sophie Ernst and Hammad Nasar of Paul Mellon Centre, London first shared their individual presentations, and later performed in a conversation together with references, visuals and allusions, making the session more interactive. Every session of the symposium was followed by a vibrant Q&A session.
The exhibition, which concluded on February 2, 2020, was a rather difficult undertaking. The main challenge of organising such an exquisite event is finding a way to convey the political and cultural context of the artworks, while also allowing the artists to speak for themselves. In this elegantly curated show, the balance feels just right. The theme directly confronts the realities of ‘violence and dislocation’ that, in her introduction to the exhibition catalogue, curator Devika Singh describes as ‘constitutive experiences of modern South Asia.’ ‘Homeland’ is a fraught notion in countries still recovering from the 1947 Partition of India and Pakistan, which uprooted twelve million people, and the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971 which displaced 9.5 million. The exhibition’s eleven artists, working in media ranging from painting to performance, explored the theme in a host of different ways that are by turns gut-wrenching, contemplative and amusing.
DBF promotes arts and artists from South Asia and beyond, internationally. It supports artists in creating new artworks with relevant exhibitions, publications and residencies. With offices in Berlin and Dhaka, DBF offers a conduit to connect art and artists between Asia, Europe and beyond.