Kamruzzaman Shadhin, photographed by Noor Ahmed Gelal
For the first edition of Majhi International Art Residency Programme, presented by Durjoy Bangladesh Foundation (DBF) in Venice, we interviewed the artist Kamruzzaman Shadhin (b. in Thakurgaon, Bangladesh) to find out about his practice and creative journey.
The residency has taken place at Combo, the former Convento dei Crociferi, where Kamruzzaman, one of the participating artists, worked from July 20th – August 3th culminating in a final collective exhibition at Combo from August 4-11, 2019. These are the others invited artists: Dilara Begum Jolly, Dhali Al-Mamoon, Rajaul Islam (Lovelu), Noor Ahmed Gelal, Uttam Kumar Karmaker, Umut Yasat, Chiara Tubia, Cosima Montavoci, Andrea Morucchio e David Dalla Venezia.
Kamruzzaman Shadhin, Elephant in the Room, Kutupalong-Balaukhali Rohingya Camp, Teknaf, Bangladesh, 2018, courtesy of the artist
You have often worked with communities of refugees, investigating their intrinsic and fragile feelings as newcomers. Could you tell me how have you done this here in Venice?
I decided to work with migrants from both my country or from other countries to investigate their feelings and to understand why they moved here, how much they suffer being far from their families… Unfortunately when they move to a new country often they never return to their place of origin. If they do return they then find it difficult to recognise their place of origin, their families and the whole society. I’m trying to work with them. I have found it hard to find a sense of community in Venice, it’s not a social as it is in our country and mind set. Venice seems to be a masterpiece and when you walk around you feel like you are part of a museum. So why is Venice considered to be the best? Is it Venice… or is it dying? Life here is really expensive and it’s hard to earn enough money to live here. It’s like heaven but you can’t afford it.
Take the Venice Biennale as an example: is it the most famous exhibition in the world or is it just a showcase of artworks? And who are the viewers? Are they just amateurs enjoying the show or are they collectors who buy art? At the Arsenale you can see Barca nostra by Christoph Büchel and at the same, outside artworks that you can’t afford. The critics say that this ship wasn’t an artwork but to me thats is the artwork, it’s your dream. So I wonder where is the Biennale? It is inside the Biennale or outside? So then, what is Venice, between the end of Art Biennale and Architecture? Are we seeing just a part of it? If you know the two sides then I want to see it with your eyes and your mind. This is my ambition, to see what you see and what you do not say through others’. I also wonder where are the Venetian artists at the Venice Biennale? The biennale always features established artists but doesn’t involve emerging Venetian artists. Everything seems being managed by politics. We are part of a system and everyone is playing out his part of a system, however terrible it is.
Kamruzzaman Shadhin, The Player Behind, 2011, performance, courtesy of the artist
In relation to that, what do you think of Majhi’s initiative to create an international network between South Asian artists with those from the rest of the world?
You know most of the time, artists can’t afford to travel so they often need a special invitation. Without this initiative I couldn’t come here and expand my experience, I believe all artists – wherever they come from – belong to a single community. We are lucky because when we are together we think in the same way and we all create good works. I don’t know if the output is good, but for sure we have created a deep connection among us. This experience could lead us to developing new projects and ideas together.
What are your plans for the future?
I am interested in the various layers and dimensions of migration and how it is related to history and current ways of the world. At present, I am developing a piece that explores the relationship of jute cultivation and migration in the colonial times of Bengal. Through my organisation Gidree Bawlee I am working in my village to trigger an artistic movement through collaborative community art projects.
Kamruzzaman Shadhin, Installation shot of Greed, 17th Asian Art Biennale, 2016, courtesy of the artist