New Media: the locus of rebirth
New media still elicits considerable suspicion from the mainstream art circuits in Bangladesh. Digital art can re-inscribe the art scene with its variegated praxis but often the verdict is that it is simply a reflection of problematic 'digital overload' in the social sphere. Unqualified as these verdicts may be, they have staying power and continue to plague digital art practice in Bangladesh. Though digital mediation remains under-examined, if not fully unexamined, in both real life and artistic languages, it is in artistic circuits that the new technologies are subject to undue suspicion. In contrast, despite some cautionary voices, spread of new media continues mostly unencumbered in real life. This matches the present government's revised nationalist vision framed around 'Digital Bangladesh' that reflects their apparent claim to the future. Many artists in Bangladesh, however, see digital as a 'schema' rooted in the technologically advanced, finance-driven west ready to displace our so-called traditional practices.
Since the achievement of every artist still revolves around the 'art of describing', or 'representing the real' for that matter, the arrival of the digital media in the art scene provides another frame for understanding how innovative inscriptions in painting and other surfaces fare against newer forms and images. These new expressions in their scope and ambition have so far worked both against and in line with the prevalent perception of art. Providing a map of the new thus entails a re-reading of the development of experimentations that had already taken place in both medium-specific art and within new media genres.
Additionally, one should also carefully consider the background through which it appeared in the first place. All types of misreading stem from the dissociation we intentionally or unintentionally imagine between art and society and/or art and pedagogy. Though the economic framework of the North-South divide is yet to enter the discursive spaces in all its political and cultural implications, the local-foreign dichotomy continues to feed the social imaginary in the realm of arts. To place this in context, one must retrace another historical folly – here in Bangladesh the adherents of British academic realism/naturalism are often mistakenly referred to as representatives of the 'native soil'.
These misrepresentations aside, there are other questionable criteria that condemn new media practices as alien insertions. Surely, the surge of the digitally developed images – both in moving and still forms – should not enjoy an uncritical status as do many variants of academic realistic art. Yet the fact remains that introduction of the World Wide Web and advancements in computer technologies have already given us some new inflection points in the social sphere. The changing social patterns are either accepted as natural development or given a wide berth and this needs to be taken into consideration before casting a critical eye on the digital horizon. One also needs to be aware of new artistic employments or various methods of address that have come to define the new media landscape that seeks to supplant an array of modern art-making models. This article aims to trace the patterns of development by recounting the voices that chronologically appeared and are still operating besides the fresh new talents who seek to overwrite the pages of art history and its development in this region.
A new beginning through fusion of reproduction/production technology
We can cite the works of Dhali Al Mamoon and Mahbubur Rahman, artists who simultaneously introduced the 'germ' of the new assimilative techne through which one sees the emergence of the new media. The earliest examples of interdisciplinary art where photography and video components were integral to the composite display saw their respective landing on two different spaces. Mahbub's video entitled I'm Talking with Myself was first shown in Chittagong as part of Young Art Exhibition in 1997, and Dhali's at the now-defunct Jojon Gallery in Dhaka's Hatirpool residential area, in 1997.
The installation by Al Mamoon formed a major part of a four-man exhibition dispersed in a two-story building marked for demolition though, ironically, it still stands. The composite work brought together ready-mades, light-boxes, and a huge video projection to foreground a socially-politically loaded narrative. It was the historical beginning of inter-media that heralded a new chapter in local art practice. The single channel video showed the transnational traffic of humans in an international airport foretelling the political nightmare that would soon grip international communities in the new millennium – the globalization of both terroristic and nationalistic, or neo-colonial violence. Apart from video as a new medium, the artist incorporated ready-mades and light-boxes where photographic images on display created a striated site.
Mahbubur Rahman, trained as a sculptor, apparently veered away from the discipline of traditional singular motif to reframe his sculptural pieces as composite sites of experimentation. His return to the narrative mode to read inscriptions of social aporia in the body to be taken for burial soon began to spill over to other areas of interest, namely destruction of nature, potentialities latent in rage and rejection of mainstream lifestyles. Therefore, site-specific performance and installation art as well as videography were gradually incorporated into his oeuvre, a process of amalgamation that finally led to a surge in new media. The medium impurity by way of new media was writ large in Rahman's installations that boasted natural or man-made objects, painting and sculpture as well as new media such as video, film, photography, audio, performances, and finally multimedia.
Newness enters cross-referential media
If cross-referencing is a significant symptom of new media art, then cross-referencing across traditional and digital mediums prevailed in the past in much of what now seems artistically-politically potent form of art. Add to that the potential to disrupt and contest or to bring into salience new form of desire through which a nonlinear relation between form and content emerges. While others set the stage for a new dialogue between the aesthetic relics of the past and the contrarian spirit of the present to move away from the established notion of art-making.
Nissar Hossain's Portrait of the Killer and The Red Chair are two examples of an unravelling dialogue between form and content since in both photographs were used to refer to the fictional or fabricated situation that simultaneously commented on the state of our art and society.
In the solo exhibition held in 2002 at Gallery 21, The Red Chair juxtaposed photos and objects bearing conscious signs of challenging the mainstream preference for the temperate, while Portrait of the Killer attempted to point at the dormant violence in all men. In the former the artist placed the chair as the main motif around which the pictures of objects including plucked chicken, and other edibles and non-edibles were arrayed. Portrait of the Killer presented a mirror and performance photographs as an examination of latent human potential to kill even one's most beloved, in this case, the father who killed his own son in an attempt to re-enact Prophet Abraham's sacrifice to God. In its entirety the work became a sum of parts that mirrored and contested each other's sociological valences problematising the humanistic discourse that continues to inform the cultural psyche.
Mahbubur Rahman's mixed medium series Cosmic World (2006), a set of paintings, worked like a cross-media palimpsest. Re-inscribing the digitally developed self-portraits with traditional motifs produced by Nepali Thanka, artist Rahman played up the idea of encounters between tradition and modern tendencies. By assimilating two temporalities in one, Rahman took an impossible plunge to destabilise the duality between tradition and modernity.
Local catalysts with global/regional affiliation
If in the past the importation of the 'new' from across the borders depended on the individual or a group's desire to co-opt the contemporary methods of art, the new millennium has ushered Bangladesh in global-regional networks through artist-run organisations. Their efforts recast the frame of relation between art and its place of staging as well as art and its audience. New practices problematised an 'art scene' dependent on the production matrix built on worn-out notions of art and its staging. The antinomies such as indigenous and foreign, figurative and abstract were therefore dealt with through new emerging trends that offered alternative dualities such as hybrid and pure, ephemeral and archetypal, objective and subjective.
In 2002, under the auspices of Triangle Art Network, Mahbubur Rahman and Tayeba Begum Lipi founded the Britto Art Trust, inviting a plethora of art forms to enter the mainstream including digital mediums. By promoting installation, kinetic art, performance, video and photography, in sum, the mainstay of interdisciplinary approach to art, Britto helped connect a number of young artists with the newly established nodal points in India-Pakistan-Sri Lanka before catapulting some of them to the global circuit. Through workshops and residencies, Britto instituted a sustained intervention, thereby setting forth a new platform for a number of new genres and combines. Following the emergence of Samdani Art Foundation, the institution behind the seminal Dhaka Art Summit, Britto's efforts were emboldened in pushing local talents to the thresholds of global circuits. Some of the artists from Britto had the chance to participate in international workshops through exchange programmes. Furthermore, in recent years Summit became a connecting point for a number of artists who received scholarships from institutions such as Delfina Foundation in England and had the opportunity to show their works at galleries across India and Europe.
In 2008, Britto organised a workshop on video art that initiated the integrated practice of new media, which soon fired the imagination of artists across generations. After participating in a video art workshop in 2006, Imran Hossain Piplu, Kabir Ahmed Masum Chisti, Raihan Ahmed Rafi and Ashfaqul Alam Rony steered a new phase for digital medium in art. Subsequently through the second and third editions of the workshop in 2008 and 2009 respectively, a new breed of artists appeared. Of all the practices, performance art prevailed as the most favoured one because of its characteristic immediacy.
On the other hand, what is interesting about the performative immersion into cross-disciplinary practices is that some of these forms fused or linked two different disciplines, as in the case of Nisar Hossain and Ronni Ahmmed, whose behind-the-scene performances served as the source of photo installations for the former and a 30-minute video for the latter.
While individual creativity is the most important constituent on the horizon of the new, the collectives formed after Britto at the onset of the new millennium were also responsible for a lot of movements and activities in the burgeoning art scene of Bangladesh. Especially in the two major cities, Dhaka and Chittagong, artist-run organisations spearheaded new practices focused on new sites and themes that went beyond the traditional ambit of exhibition and art-making. Santaran and Porapara are two of Chittagong-based collectives that initiated a trail of activities exploiting 'individual talent' and the 'unity among the members', to mobilise what can now be described as an 'imagined community' to advance site-specific, interactive as well as new media art practices.
The most crucial turning point in Chittagong was a workshop in 1997 by a now-defunct society founded by Professor Abul Mansur. The event witnessed an intervention by artist Mahbubur Rahman. Although familiar in Dhaka, this was new for Chittagong. The event paved the way for a stream of new media practices that followed. Subsequently in 2004 Abu Naser Robii set up Porapara in Chittagong and in the same year Mahbubur Rahman conducted a workshop on kinetic sculpture. Following this event the organisation continued to hold new media art workshops and exhibitions alongside other forms of practice. Even before Porapara started, Monjur Ahmad, an artist and organiser, had established Santaran in 1998. However, it was not until 2003 that they began to engage wholeheartedly with the spirit of new media practice. As part of the catalytic effort by Mahbubur Rahman and through the activities of Porapara and Santaran, a slew of new media artwork began to emerge.
Meanwhile, Britto remained instrumental in promoting new media. A few of their talented young and impressionable recruits availed the opportunity to study in the region's most advanced art educational institution, namely Beaconhouse National University of Lahore, Pakistan, where Rafiqul Shuvo studied and worked for five or so years only to dodge the trappings of modern or postmodern inspirations. One of Beaconhouse's most recent graduates is Shimul Saha, an artist who now uses video projection and light as his main aesthetic element to create immersive experiences.
In 2010, Mithu Sen from Delhi who traversed the worlds of drawing, painting and new media innovations, conducted the Britto International Artists' Workshop. The workshop held its open studio at Panam Nagar where Anisuzzaman Sohel exhibited photographs of archaeological sites that created an illusion of actual architectural structures, forms and motifs. Sen’s own project sought to test digital media's possibilities by reproducing posters on walls, allowing passersby to poke at and disfigure political portraitures.
Though not a registered artist-run organisation like Porapara and Santaran, who have played a role in the emergence of new media artists in Chittagong, Only God Can Judge Me (OGCJM) also played a vital role in boosting Dhaka's new media art scene. This group of artists disobeyed established categories and short-circuited the mainstream by working across multiple genres and mediums. Curated by its conceptual guru Rafiqul Shuvo, OGCJM presented an exhibition entitled Young Dhaka Show in 2011that marked the emergence of Abir Shome, Marzia Farhana and Mizanur Rahman Sakib as powerful exponents of new media. Consecutively in 2012, OGCJM organised a show in an abandoned factory in the city, which exploited the potential of the medium to stage works shot with zany idioms.
In the shifting art scene of the new millennium, where multiple actors are engaged in creating its predominant patterns, Naeem Mohaiemen made his entry with his solo exhibition My Mobile Weighs A Ton at Chitrak in 2008 on the anniversary of students-army collision at Dhaka University in 2007.Now dividing his time between New York and Dhaka, Mohaiemen is one of the key proponents that draws his materials from his place of birth to make films and installations that are staged on global platforms.
Feroze Mahmud, though primarily a painter, began delving into photo installation and video art since the turn of the millennium. He too bridges between Bangladesh and the rest of the world. Gust of Hot Spice and Mystique Fable, exhibited in January 2017 at Flux Factory in New York, sums up his interdisciplinary forays that featured his new film/video Blurred Reading, covering a spectrum of photographs, blood painting, mixed media works and drawing on paper.
Initially the Dhaka art scene was slow in recognising expatriate artists working in Britain and the US, but the Dhaka Art Summit played a major role in introducing these artists to the local scene. By that time, they had already earned fame in the west for their new media explorations.
Britto's New Media Festival of 2009 ushered in another phase: a film shown at the festival combined the aural and visual into an uneasy relationship. The film was by expatriate artist Runa Islam who problematised the relationship between the speaker and his utterances, which, lost in the melee of 'reproduction,' risked losing their truth-value. Islam's work was included in the solo projects of the second edition of the Dhaka Art Summit.
Among the expatriates who suddenly appeared in the Dhaka art scene, Hasan Elahi made his appearance in the dialogic panorama of Dhaka Art Summit with a parodic exposé of post-9/11 global surveillance politics. In the same edition, Naeem Mohaiemen 's video work presented fragmentary texts, jeopardising both visuality and legibility through semiotic hacking. Though international/national impulses continue to share the same space, successive editions of Summit have seen the arrival of works inhabiting differing terra psyche. Whereas Elahi remains forever stationed in the interstices of diasporic 'doubt', Mohaiemen's mode of operation, in spite of global inflections, transmits the hypotheses of space and paranoia of politics from ground zero, Dhaka, his place of origin.
Artists thriving on digital advancement and individual inventiveness
Several individual artists both outside and inside Britto's sphere made spontaneous efforts to engage with this new field. Britto’s continued nurturing of a lot of digitally-inclined artists like Yasmin Jahan Nupur, Imran Hossain Piplu, Pramathash Das Pulok, Shimul Saha and Ashim Haldar, among others, was a turning point for video and photo installations in Bangladesh's art scene.
Soon voices attentive to 'difference' as an entry point articulated their vision on discussions about the state of the world, while others appeared with their eyes set on modernism's destruction in the context of local history, culture as well as nature. Artists ahead in their game began to exploit the conflicting as well as complementary virtues of new media. In the works of Kabir Ahmed Masum Chisty, Raihan Ahmed Rafi, Niazuddin Biju and Alomgir Hossain, we saw use of animation to co-opt the plasticity of the medium and to widen its vista.
There also appeared artists who developed their languages independently. Nazia Andalib Preema, Sumona Akhter, Abire Shome, Marzia Farhana and many others appeared on the art scene. Shome and Farhana received some initial glints of digital knowledge from Rafiqul Shuvo since they were part of the Dhaka-based unofficial platform called OGCJM.
Aside from collectives, among the artists who made independent incursions into this field, one can name Ahmed Nazir who used digital media to produce serialised prints. Since the new millennium, as one of the most prolific artists of his time, Nazir subsequently developed his oeuvre with an interest in tampering with sourced image from medical journals to advance a memoir of sorts on the liberation war. Nazir's journey from an etcher to a mixed-media artist and lastly to a digital printmaker leaves an interesting trail. His digital works had an extensive run at Shilpangan.
Joya Sherin Haque, a printmaker turned cross-media artist, developed a trail of digitally developed installations since her first appearance as an installation artist in 2007, first at Drik Gallery and then in many other exhibitions at home and abroad. The artist labelled the work as 'print installation' and entitled it Faces Around Me – a landmark exhibition for new media, in which Haque used digital print and photocopy as her preferred media of artistic expression.
A Rahman is another etcher whose innovative abstraction developed through the use of plastic wood as plate earned him a reputation at the outset. In his last solo exhibition entitled Gravity Free World in 2014 at the Bengal Gallery of Fine art, a number of installations were based on digital photography developed by capturing the image of Dhaka city in an industrial mirror.
To trace the history of digital intervention and inventiveness and cast it in historical context is something of a Herculean task in Bangladesh. In absence of any archival effort by mainstream institutions, placing art and its variegated developments in historical perspective or in frameworks attendant to a coherent timeline, poses a hurdle. Anyone researching its trajectories, outlining its denouement or possible new offshoots finds themselves peerless.
While Mahbubur Rahman and Dhali Al Mamoon continued their respective practices speculating the possible future of ‘art in process’ through various cross-media installations, another new exponent, Tayeba Begum Lipi, invested in the same economy of cross-media. At the helm of Britto Art Trust alongside her husband Mahbubur Rahman, she grew an awareness of the global scene where gender difference bore on a number of established voices. Lipi established herself as a feminist exponent following her exhibition at Alliance Française in 2004, with Even the Wall has Ears, an installation with a video component as backdrop. Lipi's subsequent attempts at sending gendered signals to her audience using video works percolated into several memorable takes on gender and its social implications.
Cross-media coordinates have been used and abused over the last fifteen or so years as there has been little parallel advancement in the discursive realm necessary to provide a framework to look at the new media works. Abu Naser Robbi, primarily a performance artist, once successfully segued performance with moving image on a TV monitor in Jigpari, adding an expressionistic edge to video installation. Currently Monzur Ahmad and Tanzila Tushi have used videos to represent existential crisis as well as ecological concerns.
As an exponent of Porapara, Palash Bhattacharjee entered the scene armed with an array of performative arsenals. Alongside photo-video installations developed from his performances and site-specific installations, he inserted another crucial element, namely sound. From his early works based on photo and video installations in 2009 to those of his more recent near-absurd performances and video installations, he articulates the neural through the experiential. Since 2011, he set in motion a practice that forked into two divergent and also overlapping strands – video and performance. His single or multi-channel videos and performances are the result of his meditations on body's communion with spatial reality often set in an atemporal framework. He reorganises multiple approaches as he sets out to restore an event from life, which is at once overwhelming and abstract. Muted and distant in their articulation, his works seem to test the water at the edge. Still, Palash's 'reality' leaves no room for illusion.
Under the auspices of Porapara, Dilara Begum Jolly began her journey as a new media artist after 2010. Jolly presents her performance as video installation captured on camera. She adheres to social reality, in other words her works are rather outward looking. Simultaneously, Niloofar Chaman began her new media forages with her installations that incorporated photo and sound. After her appearance in 2011,
Afsana Sharmin Zhumpa showed a marked tendency for overlapping her performance based videos with installations that were often cloaked in an affective sensibility.
Zihan Karim emerged in Chittagong where the academic curriculum remained as unresponsive to new developments in art as Dhaka's Faculty of Fine Art. As a proponent of video art, Karim started projecting moving images at makeshift locations and ad hoc spaces that he co-opted for his projections. Later he held a photo exhibition featuring site-specific, photographic installations with Zahed Ali Chowdhury Yuvraj and Shaela Sharmin Swaty at Jog Art Space, established in 2012 to accommodate the growing interest of young artists in various modes including new media in art. There have been more recent additions to this scene with many artists still trying to push the boundary. Recently, Mihir Mashiur Rahman created a still architecture of laser-beams, a scenic-graphic articulation of death, in memory of the victims of the dark, haunting massacre at Holey Artisan Bakery. At a Daily Prothom Alo sponsored exhibition entitled, Self/Identity, he sought to capture the ambience of this simmering politico-religious violence in Bangladesh through an informal gesture of laser-light manipulation.
Sharad Das showcased new media technology in his second solo exhibition Memory Saga held in 2015 at Rashid Chowdhury Gallery at Institute of Fine Arts at Chittagong University. The reconstructed skull as a symbol of genocide was a key element to his installation that included a video. The work aligned contemporary violence with the genocidal brutality of the Liberation War, stressing the universalism of violence as an unremitting human flaw. Das exploited the potentials of cross-media in the context of a nationalist narrative of this region.
For some artists sound emerged as an element to express the inexpressible or to address the absent other/Other, while for a few it was an opportunity to simply withdraw from the visual. In Ayesha Sultana's landscape of sound installations, 'the purely physiological power of the ear as a sensory organ is confronted with a quantitatively equivalent “instrument.”’ Since the beginning of this new millennium and besides her cardinal contributions to video and photographic practices, Syeda Farhana offered a critique of regulatory social paradigm by instrumentalising sound as an element in her installations. Noor E Elahi zoned in on the aural with an outsized furry ear which radiated its own sensorium of babel. As an evidence of history, his We are Listening was presented in a group exhibition entitled Equation of Time and Art, organised by Santaran, at Bengal Art Lounge in 2012. In an entirely different way, drawing on the primordial fear of a threatened existence, Bhattacharjee returned to sound in his later works as a primary signifier as part of his video installations. There, particular unravelling of space-time condition attends to an individual's 'being' whereby their repetitive, quotidian existence embraces the universality common to humanity at large. In his two-channel video work in the last Asian Art Biennale, 2017, entitled Itihash Alaap (Coursing through History) sound becomes an important component. At both stages of unwinding (through sound and through image), the primordial pushing the body to its limits as the real is apprehended through schizophrenia.
Emergence of film as art
Yasmine Kabir, Naeem Mohaiemen and Molla Sagar are filmmakers whose works stand as testament to how a modern film can arrive at the consecrated plateau of art through the sheer strength of form and language. Sagar's film becomes a site for devising a marginalised, ethnographic narrative , or that of an urban anthropology while Kabir dwells on a fragile, social fabric susceptible to the exploitative industrialised economic schema. Her factual screening of the destructions of modern times is redolent of a feminine commiseration towards the world transforming her preference for factuality into a poetics of endurance. Mohaiemen's film United Red Army, premiered in 2011 meshes the biographical with the political.
There are others who entered this realm through works that defy easy categorisation. In his film entitled Joloj Movie, Raihan Ahmed Rafi homed in on the graphical mode of animation to freight a sensibility quintessentially intertwined with nature, memory, landscape, and commerce.
Declamatory statements issued by advertising agencies, coated as they are with consumerist aesthetic, got released into new media art practice by the likes of M A Raihan and Monir Mrittik.
Postidentical new media vs. conventional feminist images:
In Bangladesh Tayeba Begum Lipi and Yasmin Jahan Nupur are the pioneering exponents of video art and photo installation respectively. Niloofar Chaman has also invested her efforts in creating new expressions through mixed media installations. During the 2010 Asian Biennale, she teased out a curious aural experience by zoning in on the sound of birds. Through the technology of photographic intervention and redefinition of traditional weaving, Nupur played an active role in identifying the subjective position of women in society. In their approach they remain entwined with feminist essentialism; their works are reflective of 'consideration of the cultural and psychological context of patriarchal power.'
After the video workshop of 2008 by Britto Arts Trust, Lipi produced a succession of videos namely Little Learner, Amader Chhoto Nodi (Our Small River), I Wed Myself, Agony and Home, among others. Juxtaposing contrasting and directionally divergent images, Lipi coined visual forms of contrary realities that inhabit seemingly unitary coordinates of time and space. Sharing affinities with and excavating the binaries posited by Simone De Bouvoir, Lipi's subject matter bears the markers of a female (ruptured) selfhood that straddles private and public domains. As a result, a divided reality finds its locus in Lipi's works, which in turn are freighted with the versatility of new media, offering up her art events as powerful, unique, and unconventional. Lipi, thus, presents mono-linear narratives garbed glamorously in non-linear styles.
Drawing from the non-linearity of storytelling and following in the footsteps of absurdists, Ronni Ahmmed's new media works are steeped in mythical free-association. During the closing ceremony of his fourth solo entitled Tales of Pseudo Myth, held at Bengal Gallery of Fine Arts in 2006, art in Bangladesh leapfrogged into a new era, destabilising the uni-medial monophony with a video that purportedly documented, albeit fictionally, 'self as artist's reflexive performance,' from the grave they come, to the grave they go. This display introduced the idea of mock-narrative videos to new media. Their generic ambivalence lay in their amenability to the vocabularies of both experimental film and video, and the synchronic properties of cinema, theatre, literature, sculpture and fine art. Again in 2013 in the video art category of the ninth Florence Biennale he was awarded for his video, an animation made out of his own paintings entitled Seven Hundred Miles of Sleep-walking.
From the perspective of the home-grown paradoxical specificity, Rafiqul Shuvo's post-2006 rakish and ambitious gestures at tearing down boundaries led him to take on video projects– numerous short takes of Dhaka's micro-level realities, most of which he never showed or installed at any gallery space. In his videos, he focused on particular factuality to 'visualise' reality's fractures.
Knowledge instilled through experience and garnered from the net and place of education continues to harness the energy that has seen its release in the new millennium.
Shuvo spent the year 2007 studying video art with Pakistani artist Rashid Rana at Beaconhouse National University (as a consequence of Britto's exchange programme). Many others followed suit, namely, Shimul Saha and Ayesha Sultana. In 2011 Shuvo was involved in participatory as well as curatorial roles in organizing an alternative 'spatial' exhibition entitled OGCJM, followed by a stint at Dhaka Art Centre's exhibition Seven Senses, a group curatorial project. He later teamed up with Mustafa Zaman for Automated Subjectivity at Bengal Art Lounge where some of his experimental videos and new media images were showcased. From short length videos to long tortuous ones, he recalibrated the equation between the artwork and the viewer, challenging their traditionally hierarchical relationship. His videos captured the absurdity arising out of the act of time. Abir Shome articulates the same consciousness by means of socio-ontological collages of manipulated text, his installations see reality as a jumble of fragmentary, disjointed images that destabilise the notion of objective truth. Bhattacharjee's entry into the Asian Art Biennale 2016 captured a schizophrenic scribe doodling like a machine after a major malfunction. In this and in many other multiple video projects, Bhattacharjee taps the psychic state of the individual trapped by geopolitics, faith and culture, the age of neo-liberal, the imperial and other forms of terror attacks.
Ripon Saha critiqued the human condition through the lens of the culture industry in a video, Miniature of A Mega Serial, which was presented at Cross Over, an exhibition organised by Depart in 2011 at the now-defunct Dhaka Art Centre. This video was couched in a synecdoche of banana that came alive at the hand of the artist (literally, as he was squishing it).
New possibility and narrative photography:
Shumon Ahmed, Amirul Rajib, Monir Mrittik, Sarkar Pratick and Mizanur Rahman Sakib, among others, are professional photographers who began making art by variously manoeuvring the tools of the trade. They have been exploring the language of photography to traverse a wide range of forms and narratives from within the ever-expanding realm of photography. Amirul Rajib developed a series entitled Metal Empire which was presented at one of Britto's workshops in 2009 where he placed his own body in a medicalised situation. Clinical and surgical implements were used on particular human conditions as a critique of modernity. While Manir Mrittik, in his work, subverted the dominant and conventional semiotics of this cultural clime, Atish Saha catalogued the body's transformative and re-generative principles. His photographs spoke of a metamorphic performativity to attain spiritual transgression or emancipation, redeeming the visible inscriptions of violence and trauma. These powerful images go a long way towards highlighting new media's enormous prospects in making or breaking traditional sense of reading and meaning.
The world as museum for the people, by the people
Artists are using the regulations of the virtual world to their advantage since '…the museum exists everywhere now as a dimension of life' [Baudrillard]. Aside from the artists dabbling in new media, or their compatriots in other fields, a large number of user-artists exhibit in the digital cyberspace. We are yet to be certain about how this new phenomenon fares, especially when museums in the west turned into fossilised institutes that archive art that is already, and by its entry into the museum space becomes, a relic of the past, a dead object. In Bangladesh the gallery-museum system, which is still in its infancy and yet to become a modern institution to match the evolving forms of society/state, is being pre-empted or pre-emptied as it encounters an alternative exhibition space.
If colonialism is a corollary to modernity as cultural critic Ziauddin Sardar posits, then, a post-colonial nation-state like Bangladesh is still in the throes of a double-bind in relation to its own body-politic, try as it does on the one hand to be part of the global mainstream and on the other keeps insisting on unravelling the realities of its own condition through which it emerged and mutated over the last thirty years. It remains to be seen how globalised modernity confronts itself, and how the problematics that modernity itself has created respond to the presence of new media within a fissured cultural map that opens up new fronts of queries. We are living in an age of world-wide 'media-morphosis.' The new system of globalisation with its defining technologies such as computerisation, miniaturisation, digitisation, satellite communication, fibre optics, not to mention the internet, in effect, reinforces the perspective of integration. Since information highways ideologically have narrowed down the world or paradoxically broadened its scope and scale of cultural production, it would be self-defeating to draw any conclusion here as to the present and future state of new media:
‘For there is one thing which is clear –with everything in such a state of flux, it would be presumptuous even to try to describe media art history from a standpoint of completeness. The discourse is open, and this openness should remain its principle.'