Bathing in the glory of 'social practice' at Cheragee
Cheragee More, a small area, played host to the third edition of the Cheragee Art Show where works created in situ remained open to public viewing for two consecutive days, between December 12th and 13th, 2014.
The myriad different faces of the contemporaneous have been staged at Cheragee, an annual event which for its inclusion of the new media as well as situated art, occasions a renewal of the gaze. Releasing the artists from the constraints of the conventional spaces, Cheragee creates opportunities to explore what has been dubbed in the western academia as 'social practice' – a way of entrenching artworks in a dialogic vocabulary created in synchrony with the social processes. Artistic act, thus, becomes a way to collaborate with the given. Space and its attendant anthropocentric infusions are therefore considered the starting point. But what makes things interesting is the dialogue between the exhibits and the community. As has been the case in the last two editions, the works on display attracted a motley crowd. The vendors of the area running small business-enterprises easily comingled with the usual flocks of art enthusiasts.
The effect on the public needs no gloss – the visitors who are part of the locality are not habituated to enter the spaces specialized for art, but they were undoubtedly enthused by these new forms of art. Finding works in the most unlikely places, some became too inquisitive spewing a relay of questions regarding why they exist and what makes the artists bring them to existence, while others remained reticent and turned away after a cursory glance.
Cheragee show can be seen as an extension of the Boishakhee festival where one witnesses the nationally famed bolikhela – an indigenous form of wrestling. This time around, Syed Mohammad Shohrav Jahan and Zahed Ali Chowdhury Yubraj partnered in curation – the former extending his expertise to referee the works of art and the latter the performances that were staged during the event.
The transient spaces created by artists for both ephimeral works and art objects of lasting quality are often extensilvely overlaid with extraneous elements to form into installations. A particular one-story building housed multiple experiments with variegated modes of expressions using built and sourced materials with a particular concept or idea bracketing them into a singular presenation. And ideas in such a show without exception veer into the social and situated actions/productions. A particular work by Ador Yousuf, entitled Presence of Absence: Social Slumber, had art elemnets extending from the ground floor to the rooftop. The multichannel video referred to popular cultures via movie and television clips, while the organic and inorganic elments were laid out in such a way so as to become one constellation-of-a-work addressing the inartia that engulfs one, and which the information age has brought about.
On the same rooftop, Taslima Akter presented her Two-dimensional Painting in Installation which is a painting proper pretending to be an installation. Palash Bhattacharjee and Raihan Ahmed Rafi also shared space inside this building to project their respective video works on separate walls. Palash's video Good Morning documents the paperboys of the area establishing a link with an aspect of reality we rarely pay much attention to. Rafi turned his focus onto the world of virtual reality, thereby managing to stop some viewers in their tracks journeying through the area while others were disinterested as the animation work running on a loop seemed too distant from their every-day reality.
The collaborative project Happiness-Sweet-Cute, by Shohrav Jahan and Shaela Sharmin, replicated the local ambulant tea-stalls. They filled their neatly built stalls – two in all – with balloons and other colourful wares in protest of the government ban on tea-stalls in the area.
Zihan Karim, on the other hand, settled for an aspect of culture which aligns us with the localized spiritual discourses. His video presented a regular baul singer of the area named Abdul Hamid bhai. Bearing a Bengali title which is playfully onomatopoeic, Zihan's Jin, Sur, Ghur, Madhu ebong ekjan obak darshak (or Jin, Tune, Swirl, Honey and an Awestruck Spectator), re-emphasizes, in three separate projections, the act of the baul.
The event is capaciously conceived – it brings together artists active in the Chittagong art scene, thus, the list of works seems endless. One must also mention two artists from the previous generation – Osman Pasha and Sanjib Datta. Both of the painters were accommodated – their works lined the Cheragee Lane – Pasha's Not the Void of Mind and Datta's Reformation of Dreams.
Aminul Islam, Akila Shariat, Mishuk Ehsan, Mahabubul Alam et al, also showcased their works at Cheragee.
The performances piqued the minds of all and sundry. Hasna Hena Porosh's Artificial , an interactive performance, used fake plastic flowers that the artist kept spraying with scent before attaching them to people's attires. Jublee Dewan produced his Short Story by establishing a thread between his own performative act and the documentary video that relayed in the backdrop, on the child- scavengers' daily drudgeries. Dewan's durational performance which saw her silently standing on strewn flower petals is a way for him to remind one of the lost childhood of these children. Among others who joined the league of performers included Zahed Ali Chowdhury Yuvraj, Joydeb Roaja, and Suchayan Paul – all addressed social reality from their respective understanding of the inflection point between art and life.
The Cheragee area comes with its own socio-cultural legacy. It is home to a number of businesses including printing presses, newspaper offices, banks, and garment factories. There is also a discernible gulf between the cultural firmament Cheragee attests to and the larger areas of Chittagong where communities are rather somnolent regarding cultural matters. The onus which befalls the organizers of Cheragee Art Show is this – they may choose to work from the interstices of the community at large and the small cultural hub that is Charegee with the hope of bringing them closer. Additionally, the freshness the artists bring to the fore makes curatorial framework a necessity. We would look forward to the day when both social and curatorial considerations would exercise an influence on the way this event is planned and executed.
— DEPART DESK