Anthropocene” is the word of the century that is used to describe all the activities that has gone wrong with the world by trying to make it more “livable” and “developed”.
A couple of young artists, Shimul Shaha and Zihan Karim has designed an art exhibition based on this term “Fragments of the Anthropocene” and is being held at city’s Bengal Art Lounge, Gulshan.
Inaugurated on January 30, 2016 by Professor Salimullah Khan, Department for General Education, ULAB, and Mr. Rafiq Azam, Principal Architect of Shatotto, the exhibition features videos, installations, paintings and drawings by the duo who worked together on the same concept simultaneously.
Born is the early eighties, both Saha and Karim had their fare share of seeing the world evolve around them almost at lighning speed. Having grown up in Dhaka and Chittagong respectively, Saha and Karim are all too familiar with the processes of rapid urbanization and this influences their art practice heavily. Their story of “Anthropocene” is an age where an individual is primarily confronted with loss: loss of (bio) diversity through physical pain or debilitating diseases, loss of heritage through the incessant transformation of the cityscape, and loss of creativity to conform to new behavioral codes and aggressive social norms induced by urbanization. Far from being resigned or nostalgic, Saha and Karim treat these issues with sensibility or, on the contrary, scathing irony to deliver a powerful understanding of the age they live in.
Karim's two “Clocks” projected on the ground question the constant urban renewal at stake in big cities. In this video-work, old buildings of Chittagong marked for demolition are filmed in close-up, their images shaken up and distorted. Animations of bikes progressing clock- and counterclockwise on the edge of the videos seem to long for a soon-to-be-forgotten past, or to aspire to a bright future. Further in the exhibition, Karim's face-covered “Characters”, parts of a LED back-lit animation, and his various small format paintings of the “Corporate Fantasy” series read as a sarcastic comment on urban professionals trading their individuality for the smart dress codes and money-driven power they crave. Absorbed in their petty games, they seem blind to the outer world.
In contrast, Saha’s poignant light installation, “Toward the Being” and the various light-boxes rotting leaves directly refer to the sapping powers of cancer. In the context of the exhibition, the glowing artworks read as a larger metaphor for an entity confronted to the degeneration of its parts; a body attacked and slowly exhausting – and an indirect hint to the effects of human activity on nature. Further, the artist's drawings of thumb-prints made of thousand reproductions of his hand signature and embossed with his own ID number, raise defiant questions on the very definition of identity. As hollow and empty as Karim's face-covered characters, these oversized fingerprints seemingly mock the attempts to reduce the individual to biometric parameters.
In a striking parallel, both artists point at the loss of awareness, or self awareness for that matter, as one of the Anthropocene's key contributing factors.
While the artists depicted a darker side of the modern world, they are also hopeful with this era as depicted in Karim’s meditative video-work “Through my Window”. This piece mixes images of urban and rural environment is an appeasing work which invites the viewer to pause and reflect on what is, and what could be. Saha also reflected hope through his piece “Cheers” which is an an object made of intimately intricate symbols of the masculine and the feminine. Continuing on the artist's artistic interest in gender related themes, the object seems to plead for an “Anthropocene” in which constructed social boundaries about gender could be decoupled of the biological sexes allocated by nature to the human species.
“Fragments of the Anthropocene” is an exhibition that features the works of artists who are concerned about the state of the world and is using art as a means to voice concern. This exhibition hints at a few, pressing issues that echo in today's Bangladesh.
The exhibition is open to all everyday from 12 noon to 8 pm until February 27, 2016.