Art and Activism at Broad Art Museum

Amit Kumar Jain reflects on The Artist as Activist, a joint exhibition by Bangladeshi artists Tayeba Begum Lipi and Mahbubur Rahman

The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum opened a landmark exhibition on two leading Bangladeshi artists, Mahbubur Rahman and Tayeba Begum Lipi, earlier this month. Considered as the forerunners of contemporary art practice in Bangladesh, Rahman and Lipi are also well-known for having co-founded, and currently running, the Britto Arts Trust, a non-profit organisation supporting young artists, since 2002. Their first major museum exhibition, The Artist as Activist brings together an extensive body of the duo’s collective work under one roof, which has “emerged from their shared journey as a husband and wife, and reflect their continual interchange of ideas and pursuit of like-minded themes,” according to curator Caitlin Doherty.

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The Eli and Edythe Broad Museum, Michigan, USA. Image courtesy: Amit Kumar Jain

Doherty transforms the museum space effectively, by dedicating a gallery to each artist and showcasing works from various periods of their career. Lipi’s section is designed as a quiet, intimate and personal space, making the viewer look inwards to the role of the women in the Bangladeshi society. Her works look at the domestic, and how the woman negotiates the constant tussle of her personal ambitions and societal demands. As one moves through the gallery, one moves through her body, culminating in a womb-like, protective environment, where she secludes her innermost desires and emotions from the taxing outer world. This is the space where My Daughter’s Cot, an empty cradle made of stainless steel razors, signifies the vast contradiction between the personal and the societal, and gives a sense of longing in what is supposed to be a beautiful, but threatening symbol of motherhood.

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My Daughter’s Cot, Tayeba Begum Lipi, 2012. Image courtesy: Amit Kumar Jain

Contrary to Lipi’s gallery, Rahman’s artworks speak for the abject, dissatisfied man, beginning with a self-portrait series of charcoal drawings that depict the artist screaming in frustration, in response to his own helplessness and inability to fight the political and social failure of his country. He approaches activism through social commentary, highlighting the plight of the indigo farmer through an ongoing performance piece titled Transformations. In Sounds from Nowhere-8, Rahman symbolically captures the pain and the loss that followed the collapse of the eight-storied Rana Plaza building in Dhaka, which caused death and injury to thousands of garment factory workers. He navigates his own identity in the contemporary political history of Bangladesh, a nation still recovering from two wars. Rahman’s gallery becomes more vocal and versatile as he adapts to multiple mediums in highlighting the struggles he shares with his fellow citizens in a postcolonial, developing country.

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Charcoal drawings by Mahbubur Rahman. Image courtesy: Amit Kumar Jain

The last gallery brings together the works of Lipi and Mahbub under a common endeavour. Through their non-profit organisation, they initiated a project to work with the transgender community in Dhaka. Reversal Reality, a solo project by Lipi, compares the living realities of the artist and co-collaborator Anonnya, a transgender woman, while focussing on the struggles of the latter. While Lipi’s project takes on the individual, Rahman’s video project Time in a Limbo looks at the transgender community through their rituals, dialogues and practices. The museum has proposed to use this gallery with the LGBT community of East Lansing, and hopes to bring Anonnya to the United States to share her experience.

The Artist as Activist is the first major exhibition from South Asia at the Broad Art Museum, and will continue till 7 August 2016. Previously, the museum had showcased a project by Mithu Sen and an exhibition of works by Imran Qureshi and Naiza Khan.

—Amit Kumar Jain, Curatorial Consultant for The Artist as Activist

 

Exhibition details:
The Artist as Activist
Featuring: Tayeba Begum Lipi and Mahbubur Rahman

Dates:
5 March – 7 August 2016

Venue:
Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum
Michigan State University
547 East Circle Drive
East Lansing, MI 48824
USA

 

 

 

 

“Barbed Floss” at The Guild in Mumbai

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart shares a note about the Guild Art Gallery’s latest group show, documenting the cultural ramifications of borders

Barbed Floss, Gallery View. The Guild

Barbed Floss, Gallery View. The Guild.

New York: Currently, the Guild Art Gallery in Mumbai is displaying an engaging group show entitled “Barbed Floss”. This exhibition consists of works by five artists from Bangladesh who have shown in a wide range of international institutions. “Barbed Floss” examines the concepts tied to cultural and literal barriers that cut through different parts of our contemporary world. Most specifically, the fifth largest border worldwide, the barbed wire fence separating Bangladesh and India.

Barbed Floss, Gallery View. The Guild

Barbed Floss, Gallery View. The Guild

The title “Barbed Floss” utilizes the literal and interpretive meanings of these two opposing terms. “Borders on land are made up of barbed wire fencing and high walls, extreme military security, extreme emotional insecurity. The word floss behaves as a thorough cleanser with a fine thread, which removes, cleanses and frees blockages”. Curated by Veeranganakumari Solanki this exhibition discusses the limitations, miscommunications and conflicts that come about in these neighbouring communities simply by the virtue of this physical divide.The Guild has chosen Tayeba Begum Lipi, Mahbubur Rahman, Promotesh Das Pulak, Molla Sagar and Anisuzzaman Sohel for this examination of cultural limitations. Each artist takes a unique approach to this subject matter. Some works reflect literal interpretations, others more theoretical and possible solutions for these issues. Personal, third person and political narratives can be seen through each individual work. This is their first time their work is being shown together in this format.

The Guild specializes in Indian Contemporary Art. Their programming stresses a commitment to artist/curator dialogue and encourages experimentation and conceptual creativity. The Guild was founded in 1997 as most recently has expanded its artist representation to international artists. “Barbed Floss” will run at the Guild Art Gallery through September 30, 2013.

For more information visit The Guild’s website.

Guggenheim Museum’s South and Southeast Asian Exhibition

Medha Kapur of Saffronart on an upcoming exhibition of Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia at The Guggenheim Museum. 

Mumbai: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, one of the world’s most renowned museums, will host the exhibition ‘No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia’. This inaugural exhibition of the  Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative presents works by 22 artists from Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. It is a five-year program involving curatorial residencies, touring exhibitions and new acquisitions. After New York, the exhibition will be travel to venues in Singapore and Hong Kong. All the works featuring in the show have been acquired by the museum and will become part of its permanent collection.

The exhibition includes works by Tayeba Begum Lipi, one of Bangladesh’s leading contemporary artists, Filipino multidisciplinary artist Poklong Anading, Indian multidisciplinary artist Shilpa Gupta and more. Works showcased in this exhibit will vary across a range of paintings, sculptures, photography, video, works on paper and installations.

Here is a selection of the artworks that will be on show:

Tayeba Begum Lipi -“Love Bed”

Tayeba Begum Lipi -“Love Bed”
Image courtesy: http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=265185

Norberto Roldan F-16, 2012

Norberto Roldan
F-16, 2012
Image courtesy: http://www.huffingtonpost.com

Poklong Anading Counter Acts, 2004

Poklong Anading
Counter Acts, 2004
Image courtesy: http://www.huffingtonpost.com

Arin Dwihartanto Sunaryo Volcanic Ash Series #4, 2012

Arin Dwihartanto Sunaryo
Volcanic Ash Series #4, 2012
Image courtesy: http://www.huffingtonpost.com

The Ghost of Mohammed Bin Qasim

Bani Abidi
The Ghost of Mohammed Bin Qasim, 2006
Image courtesy: http://www.huffingtonpost.com

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