press release

Dhaka Art Summit 2020
07.02.2020 - 15.02.2020

Seismic Movements: Dhaka Art Summit 2020
February 7–15, 2020

50 million years ago the Eurasian and the Indian plates collided and created the Himalayas which rise north of the delta of Bangladesh and span across South Asia from Afghanistan to Myanmar as a geographic marker. Inspired by a geological reading of the word “summit” as the top of a mountain, and Seismic Movements: Dhaka Art Summit 2020 looks at movements generated by energy released from pressure—geologically, socially and politically. While Bangladesh has no mountains within its borders, DAS has risen from this delta as a movement over the past eight years as its collaborators and community grow and maintain their engagement with the platform. More than just an exhibition, DAS is a platform to catalyse a rich context for research and artistic production in the future by empowering artists and the public through its exhibitions, education, and public programmes. This will be a summit of humanist potential rising above geopolitical boundaries. Just as seismic movements don’t adhere to a singular timeframe or scale and can build up slowly or erupt in an instant, the event plays with time in non-linear ways and builds on layers of ideas and collaborations born in its previous four editions.

“I propose the planet to overwrite the globe,” writes Gayatri Spivak. Elaborating on this notion, artist Shuddhabatra Sengupta of Raqs Media Collective speaks of the word “planet” as an allusion to the past, present, and future of the wandering star we struggle upon. In this sense, DAS is expanding its geographic and temporal scope to consider Bangladesh from a planetary perspective, looking at the world from the immediate and near to the unfathomably far, destabilising the human by shifting the time scales. Significantly, both Spivak and Sengupta have participated in previous editions of DAS. Samdani Art Foundation Artistic Director Diana Campbell Betancourt returns as the Chief Curator of DAS 2020, thinking collectively with leading curators, artists, and academics:

“Inspired by the 1414 gift of a giraffe by the Sultan of Bengal to Emperor Yongle of China, I hope this summit will widen its view to look at historical layers of connectivity across Asia, Africa and the Indian Ocean, becoming a platform where former colonial subjects can come together without a western intermediary to imagine new futures from Dhaka inspired by similar utopian movements of the past. The word “summit” calls to mind the physical signs of plate tectonics, and ideas of Pangea and existences far beyond the span of a human lifetime or even the cumulative history of mankind. How can we as artists, curators, writers, art’s many supporters and publics come together to make a constellation of seismic shifts toward a better world outside of the myopic individual interest that is threatening our existence on this planet?”

Free to the public and ticketless, DAS brings together over 300,000 people to discuss ideas for alternative futures and more informed histories outside of national frameworks through the arts. While DAS began as a South Asian art platform, given tightening borders in the region, the idea of the region as one is untenable today and insufficient to understand the complex context of Bangladesh, especially from the perspective of climate change. DAS 2020 connects widely across the global south based on shared struggles rather than current geopolitical definitions. The title of DAS is inspired by art historian Dr Zahia Rahmani’s The Seismography of Struggles, a sound and visual inventory of non-European critical and cultural journals produced in the wake of revolutionary movements at the end of the 18th century up to the watershed year of 1989. A seismography of human and non-human struggles grounded in Bangladesh and spanning past, present, and speculative futures will comprise the immersive exhibition curated by Diana Campbell Betancourt linking together ideas found across the Summit’s varied programs and collaborations. As in the past, portions of the exhibition will be co-commissioned and co-curated with international partners, and DAS is delighted to be partnering again with Artspace, Sydney and further partners will be announced in September 2019.

Returning to DAS 2020, The Otolith Group curates a film programme spanning nine days entitled To welcome the end of the world as we know it. The recurrent task of the Black Feminist Critic and the Black Feminist Poet, according to philosopher Denise Ferreira da Silva, is to work towards “the end of the world produced by the tools of reason.” Working towards the end of a certain kind of world, which is decolonization, requires the emancipation of “the category of Blackness from the scientific and historical ways of knowing that produced it in the first place.” Emancipated from narratives of science and history, Blackness “wonders about another praxis” as it “wanders in the World’ guided by the “ethical mandate of opening up other ways of knowing and doing.” Inspired by Ferreira da Silva’s Feminist Poethics of Blackness, To welcome the end of the world as we know it assembles wandering sounds and wondering images that open up other ways of knowing and doing. A Cinema that imagines politics released from the grip of universal reason. A Cinema that imagines a World that precedes space and time but which operates in space and time.

The art scene of Bangladesh thrives on the energy and infrastructure built by artist-led initiatives who have developed networks and spaces to support their practice in the absence of centrally funded institutions and a local market for contemporary art. The Samdani Art Foundation supports many of these dynamic organisations through its Samdani Artist Led Initiatives Forum and grant programme. Working collaboratively with Kathryn Weir (Cosmopolis, Centre Pompidou Paris), Gudskul (Jakarta), a public learning space established by ruangrupa, Serrum and Grafis Huru Hara (Jakarta), Para Site (Hong Kong), and RAW Material Company (Dakar), the Samdani Art Foundation will expand this platform at DAS, bringing together over thirty collectives from Bangladesh and Bangladesh and across Australia, Asia, Africa, Central and South America, and Oceania. The resulting platform is a confluence of exhibition programming and workshops between and across the collectives and the public on how to build and sustain grassroots institutions in contexts with little existing local infrastructure and how to work collaboratively. The entire second floor of the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy, in Gudskul’s words, will transform into a “learning space established to practice an expanded understanding of collective values, such as equality, sharing, solidarity, friendship and togetherness.”

Parallel but connected to this platform, Bangladeshi writer Mustafa Zaman will curate a historical exhibition entitled Nobody Told Me There'd be Days Like These exploring the vibrant work of art, architecture, film, literature, and theatre collectives active in Bangladesh around the 1980s years of Martial Law. Diana Campbell Betancourt will curate with advisors Sean Anderson (Assistant Curator, Department of Architecture and Design, Museum of Modern Art New York) and Nurur Khan (Architect and Director, Muzharul Islam Archive) an exhibition that engages the vision of contemporary artists to allow for new readings of Bangladeshi modernist architect Muzharul Islam’s (1923-2012) work and the movements he catalyzed.

A research initiative supported by the Getty Foundation in collaboration with Cornell University’s Institute for Comparative Modernities and the Asia Art Archive, Connecting Modern Art Histories in and across Africa, South and Southeast Asia, ensures visiting curators learn from established and emerging scholars in the region and bridges the growing gap between exhibition-making and academia. The team for this initiative is led by Dr Iftikhar Dadi (Associate Professor of History of Art and Director of the South Asia Programme, Cornell University) with a guest faculty of Dr Elizabeth Giorgis (Director of Gebre Kristos Deta Center, Addis Ababa University), Dr Simon Soon (Senior Lecturer, Visual Art Department, University of Malaysia), Dr Ming Tiampo (Professor of Art History, Carleton University), Dr Salah Hassan (Professor of African and African Diaspora Art History and Visual Culture, Cornell University), and Dr Sanjukta Sunderason (Art History and South Asian Studies Lecturer, University of Leiden) with support from organisers Amara Antilla (Curator, Solomon R Guggenheim Museum) and Diana Campbell Betancourt (Artistic Director, DAS), and the Asia Art Archive team led by John Tain (Head of Research, AAA) and his team of researchers, Dr Sneha Ragavan, Dr Chuong-Dai Vo and Michelle Wong.

Conceptualized by the UC Berkeley South Asia Art Initiative and the Subir & Malini Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies, Indian Ocean Imaginaries as World History, returns to the Indian Ocean Littoral, in the past and in the present, to recover modes of being in the world that exceed Westernism’s conceptual projections. The interdisciplinary and intermedial program is led by historian Dr Munis D. Faruqui (Associate Professor, Sarah Kailath Chair of Indian Studies, and Director of the Institute for South Asia Studies), art historians Dr Atreyee Gupta (Assistant Professor of Global Modern Art, South and Southeast Asian Art) and Dr Sugata Ray (Associate Professor, South and Southeast Asian Art), artist Asma Kazmi (Assistant Professor, Department of Art Practice), and political scientist Dr Sanchita Saxena (Director, Subir and Malini Chowdhury Center for Bangladesh Studies). The program will unfold in close collaboration with artists, activists, and art and architecture historians in Bangladesh.

Bishwajit Goswami, a visual artist and educator in the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka, will curate an intergenerational exhibition speaking to transfers of knowledge across students and teachers in Bangladesh, including pioneering artist educators such as Rashid Choudhury and Zainul Abedin. In partnership with the Goethe Institut Bangladesh, the Samdani Art Award will be curated by Philippe Pirotte (Rector, Art History and Culture Education Department, Stäedelschule) and the 12 short listed artists will be commissioned to make new work for the exhibition. The 2020 Short List includes: Ariful Kabir, Ashfika Rahman, Faiham Ebna Sharif, Habiba Nowrose, Najmun Nahar Keya, Palash Bhattacharjee, Promoti Hossain, Soma Surovi Jannat, Sounak Das, Sumana Akter, Tahia Farhin Haque, and Zihan Karim. The winner of the prize will receive a funded residency at the Delfina Foundation in London, and will be selected by an jury chaired by Aaron Cezar (Director, Delfina Foundation) with Adrián Villar Rojas (artist), Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev (Director, Castello di Rivoli), Julie Mehretu (artist), and Sunjung Kim (President, Gwangju Bienniale Foundation).

Sristi Binash (Bangla for “create and destroy”) is an international, cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary research project aimed at developing new tools and methodologies for creating culturally rooted, ecologically sustainable, and socially responsible exhibition displays. The project is funded by Pro-Helvetia Swiss Arts Council, and led by the Swiss design research practice common-interest in collaboration with DAS. Its team is comprised of Shawon Akand (freelance artist and researcher, Bangladesh), Huraera Jabeen (architect, PhD, Brac University), Prem Krishnamurthy (exhibition maker, Wkshps), Khan Md. Mobinul (engineer, Dhaka Art Summit), Nina Paim (design researcher, common-interest), Ashfika Rahman (freelance artist, Bangladesh), Asifur Rahman (architect, Dhaka Art Summit), Dries Rodet (architect, Truwant+Rodet) and Inteza Shariar (freelance architect, Bangladesh).