‘Art Walk’ in Old Dhaka courtesy of 1mile2
Between the physically assertive particular (in a given space) and the conceptually framed lexicon (of art and collective imaginings) there flow dialogues (in)forming artistic activities congealing into languages of expression. One may, in retrospect, bring them under the frame of 'relational art', courtesy of N. Bourriaud. Similar ethos motored the participants of 1mile², Dhaka 2014. Buildings and open spaces were thus co-opted by artists who inserted their respective creation/negotiation as part of this multi-layered programme, which saw its third edition unveiled for public viewing on January 2, the Open Studio day after a month-long deliberation and creative actions.
The works brought forth using various mediums resided in the nexus of the collective realities of the host communities and the conceptual rigours the itinerant creative community members brought to bear upon the chosen spaces. The latter group comprising of artists, photographers and performers devised their own mediations and methods to push the artistic act closer to the societal.
1mile², in its third edition, saw its launch on December 5 with an on-site meeting where some 40 participants gathered in the morning for a group discussion. They spent the rest of the day coursing through a one square mile area earmarked for art projects. In the historically inscribed and culturally diverse spaces of Old Dhaka they were to settle for those on which to leave their respective creation traversing both charted and uncharted cultural-historical narratives that bind peoples together living across this striated zone.
The hosts represented by both traditional and new communities of this rapidly changing old part of Dhaka risks a disastrous makeover of their areas at present. The uneven development activities devalue all forms of organic growth and avoid sound urban planning: in the course of a couple of decades the area has come to stand emptied of myriad edifices, most dating back to the early twentieth century.
Though the area still boasts some of the precolonial and colonial-era remnants where most artworks were comfortably housed, it stands at risk of losing some of its crucial features in the form of traditional buildings. Sadly, only a few have been guaranteed a longer life after having made it to the list of heritage sites.
The emancipative spirit released through 1mile², where artists are not bound by the constraints of the traditional spaces (galleries and museums) could be witnessed in many an installation on January 2, 2015, the open studio day.
The aesthetic goal this project has set for the participants arrives via an international project that conducingly addresses the intersection between art and urban spatiality.
To explore biodiversity, cultural diversity, and aesthetic diversity, artists, photographers and performers sifted through the region to find a plausible juncture where they would be able to insert objects, or install their video works in the spirit of the participatory goals they had set at the outset.
Marlene Harles, a PhD student of anthropology from Heidelberg University, Germany, who has been on the trail of the art collectives operating as hives of artists given to innovative idioms, defines all such activities as a form of negating the gentrification of spaces that are now occupied by people of many stripes and class.
As is often the case in such programmes, the socially or historically loaded places were chosen by artists and photographers to ensure a crossover between aesthetic action and the given textual, spatial and social reality. Bahadur Shah Park, Pogose School, Bulbul Academy of Fine Arts (BAFA), Beauty Boarding, Lalkuthi, Farashganj Orphanage, Ruplal House at Shyam Bazar, Panch Bari, Boro Bari, or Shyam Bazar Ghat etc., saw participants negotiating both the place and people to ensure that their ideas sprang from the chosen sites and addressed the given reality. What was unveiled on the final day, when art lovers and connoisseurs were invited to join what amounted to an art walk, were the result of days of preparation on the part of the artists.
Britto Arts Trust is an international organisation based in Bangladesh, working to promote young and emerging artists since 2002. As a site for steerheading an inclusive agenda for art of dialogic intent, 1mile², since its inception, has been playing host to a large number of newbies grappling with the issue of situating art in the public domain. The third edition simply upped the ante as it facilitated an array of exclusive projects by both renowned and new artists, thereby injecting a healthy dose of enthusiasm for new and intermedia explored as a conspiracy against the status quo from within the horizon of what many dub as a burgeoning art scene.
– DEPART DESK