press release

In the coming art season, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and Stedelijk Museum ’s-Hertogenbosch (SM’s) have joined forces to present two video installations by Indian artist Amar Kanwar (New Delhi, 1964). This double presentation is a unique opportunity to get acquainted with the work of this compelling Indian artist whose work responds to issues in contemporary Indian life. Kanwar’s video essays numbered among the highpoints of the last two Documentas in Kassel.

The first part of Amar Kanwar’s new three-part installation The Torn First Pages (2008) will be screened in Docking Station, the project space for young international artists in Stedelijk Museum CS. SM’s in ‘s-Hertogenbosch is presenting the installation The Lightning Testimonies (2007).

The Torn First Pages is a three-part installation on the political and humanitarian situation in Burma(Myanmar). For this piece, Kanwar drew inspiration from the story of a book-dealer in Mandalay who was imprisoned for tearing out the first page of every book. These pages bore odes to the military regime and taunts addressed to the democratic movement in Myanmar.

Docking Station is screening part one of The Torn First Pages, which consists of six videos in colour and black and white projected onto fragile sheets of paper. Kanwar: ‘Imagine twenty sheets of paper floating in the wind, each with translucent moving images from within Burma and across the globe.’

The videos from part one of The Torn First Pagesare: The Face, Thet Win Aung (a&b), Ma Win Maw Oo, The Bodhi Tree and Somewhere in May. The various parts are based to some extent on film and video material shot clandestinely in Burma. Kanwar is in contact with the Burmese resistance movement and trains ‘amateurs’ to shoot footage surreptitiously for inclusion in his work. Some of the material, however, was shot outside Burma in India, Europe, the US and Thailand. In The Face we see footage of general Than Swe, head of the Burmese junta who, in 2004, visited Rajghat, the site of Gandhi’s cremation. Swe’s visit was extremely controversial. The general is known for being very particular about his media representation but Kanwar managed to video Swe as he scattered rose petals at the hallowed place.

The various parts of The Torn First Pagesmetaphorically refer to the struggle for a democratic society, exile, memory and individual courage.

The Torn First Pages was commissioned by Public Press and Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary; the complete series will be shown in the Haus der Kunst in Munich from October 8 - November 9, 2008.

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Amar Kanwar
The Torn First Pages
Kurator: Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen

05.09.08 - 30.09.08 Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
08.10.08 - 09.11.08 Haus der Kunst, München