The Dhaka Art Summit, now in its third year, concluded on February 8, 2016 after four consecutive days at the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. This year's event featured a total of six exhibitions, 17 solo works, film screenings from over 35 artists, performance art, and, new to this year's summit, the "Critical Writing Ensemble" and "Live Feed Station."
The "Critical Writing Ensemble" brought together works from bright South Asian litterateurs, while the "Live Feed Station", hosted in conjunction with the Asia Art Archive, was a living bibliography of sorts, bringing together interesting publications from the past century. These additions added more of a written word component to the event than previous years.
The six exhibitions included "Rewind," which featured artists preceding the late 80s, "The Missing One," which was a science fiction-inspired exploration in painting, "Architecture in Bangladesh", featuring architects who shaped the country, and "Mining Warm Data," an exhibit that seeks to tell history through subjective experience. This exhibit featured photographs, art and artefacts from across the globe, and centred around Chitra Ganesh and Miriam Ghani's post-9/11 "Index of the Disappeared" - a conceptual work featuring plastic balloon-like objects printed with the photos and names of those "disappeared" from America.
Another exhibition was "Soul Searching," an art space to highlight local artists. Notable works included "Pouch of Mother" by Rokeya Sultana, whose explosively colourful works "capture the essence of the liberation war," as one passer-by noted. With rifles wrapped in rope, sari-draped figures set against the backdrop of war, the face of Sheikh Mujib rising above the crowded masses, one could see how. This exhibition also featured works from Rashid Talukder, the iconic photojournalist who gained attention for his capturing of the Liberation War, as well as lesser-known artists such as the young Ariyan Arin Khan.
The final exhibition featured winners of the Samdani Art Award, given to upcoming artists chosen by Daniel Baumann, Director of Kunsthalle Zurich, who was initially asked to choose ten individuals from a long list of 20 Bangladeshi artists. Unable to narrow it down to ten, Baumann selected 13. Baumann writes in the exhibit's introduction, "Their works and approaches seem to form a strong current at the moment, a current that I tried to understand as an urge to build up a visual memory and culture for a very young country at the brink of maybe a new era. All of their works pick up important issues of the moment such as the menacing destruction of places and subcultures such as Old Dhaka, the highly problematic, nevertheless fascinating dismantling of ghost ships, the huge social differences Bangladesh is built on, and the potentially taboo-laden relationships between the sexes and religion." Recipients of the Samdani Art Award go on to have residencies at the Delfina Foundation.
The Dhaka Art Summit serves as a venue for elites, intellectuals, politicians, art-enthusiasts and youth to mingle while appreciating South Asia's best. This year's event was not, however, free of conflict. At the onset of the event, the "Mining Warm Data" featured "Last Words" by Tibetan artists Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, a display that showed letters written by Tibetan protesters before self-immolation. Indian Express reported that the display was covered after censure from the Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh, Ma Mingqiang.
The Samdani Art Foundation, a private foundation whose offices are located in Dhaka as well, hosted the summit. Plans for the next summit have not yet been announced.
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