CURATEd BY Simon Castets
While the Dhaka Art Summit 2018 (DAS 2018) directed considerable energy to looking back into the exhibition history in South Asia, it is primarily a forward-facing initiative, generating possibilities for artists living and working in Bangladesh today. Continuing its collaboration with the Delfina Foundation, the Samdani Art Award 2018 deepened its support of emerging Bangladeshi artists under the curatorial direction of Simon Castets (Director, Swiss Institute, New York).
On November 3, 2017, the Dhaka Tribune reported that Bangladesh had climbed a few ranks up the World Economic Forum’s 2017 “Global Gender Gap” report, making the country the leader for female empowerment in South Asia. After a steady rise, Bangladesh now outranks the United States, which lags closely behind, snugged between Peru and Zimbabwe. While statistics only convey part of the picture, Bangladesh’s 7th position out of the 144 surveyed countries in the “Political Empowerment” category suggests a future path marked by exponential, rapid progress.
Such a startlingly optimistic picture resonated with a forward-looking sense of openness that characterised the process of curating the 2018 edition of the Samdani Art Award Exhibition. From over one hundred applications that were received from Bangladeshi artists either living in the country or studying abroad, Delfina Foundation Director Aaron Cezar selected 22 artists, half of whom were chosen to be part of the exhibition. This year for the first time, all 11 artists in the exhibition were given the opportunity to produce new work for the occasion, and benefitted from the individual mentorship of curators, in partnership with the Liverpool Biennial and the New North and South network. From the exhibition, the jury determined Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury the winner of this year’s award and the recipient of a six-week residency during summer 2018 at the Delfina Foundation in London.
The modus operandi of the curatorial exercise, including this introduction, called for a fair amount of reverse engineering and, primarily, an open framework that invited conflicting narratives and interpretations. Confronted with heightened religious tensions, a massive refugee crisis and a deeply fraught historical context, the artists in this exhibition, while wildly distinct in their work, were linked by their sharp conveying of layered, often harsh realities into a variety of arresting forms.
Fast-paced change is fertile ground for artists. Whether describing its harshness or longing for its lasting effects, whether recalling the hardships of the recent past or condemning those of the obstinate present, whether reminiscing vanishing knowledge or fostering future understandings, the 11 participants in the 2018 Samdani Art Award Exhibition brought together thoughts and forms to build the way forward, rapidly.
Ahmed Rasel (b.1988, Barishal)
Arpita Singha Lopa (b. 1986, Kishoreganj)
Ashfika Rahman (b. 1988, Dhaka)
Debasish Shom (b. 1979, Bagerhat)
Marzia Farhana (b. 1985, Dhaka)
Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury (b. 1981, Noakhali)
Opper Zaman (b. 1995, Dhaka)
Palash Bhattacharjee (b. 1983, Chittagong)
Rakib Ahmed (b. 1988, Netrakona)
Reetu Sattar (b. 1981, Dhaka)
Shikh Sabbir Alam (b. 1982, Kushtia)
Alexie Glass Kantor, Executive Director, Artspace, Sydney and Curator of Art Basel Hong Kong Encounters (Palash Bhattacharjee)
Anita Dube, Artist and Curator of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2018 (Marzia Farhana)
Ashira Thompson, Biennale Project Manager, Colombo Art Biennale (Shikh Sabbir Alam)
Ben Roberts, Associate Curator, The Tetley, Leeds (Arpita Singh Lopa)
Julie Lomax, Director of Development, Liverpool Biennial (Opper Zaman)
Michelle Newton, Deputy Director, Artspace, Sydney (Ahmed Rasel)
Natasha Howes, Senior Curator, Manchester Art Gallery (Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury)
Polly Brannon (Debasish Shom)
Poppy Bowers, Exhibitions Curator, Whitworth, Manchester (Rakib Ahmed)
Sally Tallant, Director, Liverpool Biennial (Reetu Sattar)
Tarun Nagesh, Associate Curator, Asian Art at the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane (Ashfika Rahman)
Click here to find out more about the Samdani Art Award.