Ishara Art Foundation, Dubai, sees Art as an instrument of resistance
SHARJAH: Ishara Art Foundation, Dubai, is hosting Every Soiled Page, with artworks curated from the Prabhakar Collection that invoke our relationship to reading and remembering as collective acts of resistance (Sept. 19 – Dec. 19). The title is inspired from a verse by Pakistani author and poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz from his poem Memory writen in 1953 during his imprisonment in in Montgomery Central Jail (Sahiwal, Pakistan). The exhibition features paintings, drawings, prints, installation and a new commission of a performance-installation. Works focus on different surfaces and materials on which memories, traces, imprints and songs reside, and invite us to think about how we carry them. Every Soiled Page is Ishara Art Foundation’s fourth exhibition dedicated to exploring ways in which art expands our sensitivities to witnessing and forming collective memories.
Taking a silverpoint etching of an olive tree by artist Praneet Soi as a point of departure, the exhibition atempts to expand the notion of bearing witness beyond the human world, to the planetary dimensions of remembering. “We as society remember, but the earth too remembers. Its each fragment remembers, the trees and soil remember. If indeed history and time inscribe themselves onto the earth and encode themselves into all forms of life, where shall we begin reading?” the gallery asks.
Colonialism and modernity believed in unearthing the past and regurgitating it in order to preserve it. What if there are other ways of bearing witness and reading what is inscribed on every soiled page?
Taking cue from Faiz’s poem, the exhibition proposes art as a site for reverse archaeology, where materials, voices, inscriptions and testimonies produce resonance for bearing witness and remembering as acts of resistance. Faiz’s verses powerfully proclaim that to remember we must understand every soiled page, listen to their reverberations collectively and even sing with them the songs that arise from them. The exhibition is curated by Sabih Ahmed and features works by Anju Dodiya, Astha Butail, Neha Choksi, Soi and Sunil Padwal, and a newly commissioned performance installation by Inder Salim. It is hoped the artworks will expand the exhibition into a space of readings, recitals, inscriptions and annotations. A concurrent events programme will be launched online on the Ishara website from October.
Dodiya regards her paintings as acts of rebellion and exorcism by using the self-portrait as a way to explore conflicts between inner life and external reality.
She provides a new take on historical sources as varied as Indian miniatures, French medieval tapestries and newspaper photographs. Her paintings are striking in the contrast they create between the dramatic intensity of the subjects and the subtleties with which she produces them.
Butail conflates the roles of artist and researcher and her practice draws natural and cultural materials through a combination of sculptural ensembles, artist books, painting, installation, textile, drawing, video, and sound. Her projects are oten interactive and involve the viewer to be part of the work.
Choksi embraces a confluence of disciplines, including performance, video, installation, and sculpture. She disrupts logic by seting up poetic and absurd interventions in everyday life — from stone to plant, animal to self, friends to institutions.
Her process oten involves collaborative and lived performances that negotiate relationships in unconventional setings. It allows her to revisit the entanglements of time, consciousness and socialisation. Her most recent work-in-progress, Elementary, is a long-term, multi-format project that stems from a lived performance wherein she atends for an entire academic year (2018-2019) a Los Angeles public elementary school as a kindergarten student.
Soi’s practice ranges across painting, drawing, video and site-specific installations. He identifies over time paterns that emerge from an investigation of his extended social and economic landscape. Media reportage of unrest in the Middle-east, Pakistan and Afghanistan in the events following September 11 led him to a series of miniature paintings on terrorism and expanding from there, paintings of the human body. Padwal’s art practice reflects on the unsettling nature of contemporary urban life through a series of complex drawings. The artist suggests that not only are we unable to escape from the grip of our everyday reality, but have also become passive observers, unable to question our experiences.
Salim is a conceptual performance artist and poet practicing for over 25 years. He has foregrounded the role of art as activism. Reflecting upon the relationship between art and its relevance to the world, he has performed at different venues in India and overseas. Ahmed is the Associate Director and Curator at Ishara Art Foundation. His curatorial work and research focus on modern and contemporary art of South Asia through diverse itineraries, languages and inter-disciplinary fields.
Ishara Art Foundation, founded in 2019, is a space dedicated to South Asian art and is located in Alserkal Avenue, Dubai. The non-profit is founded and supported by Dubai resident, collector and patron, Smita Prabhakar. The foundation is her contribution to arts and culture in the UAE, a space to share South Asian culture with the local community and diverse international audiences, in the MENASA region. She is currently on the Advisory Board of Art Dubai, a member of the South Asian Acquisitions Commitee at Tate Modern, London, and is an International Patron of the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, supporting the V S Gaitonde exhibition in 2015.