The first annual Samdani Seminars was recently held in the city, curated by the Samdani Art Foundation. Artistic Director Diana Campbell Betancourt as a way for international and Bangladeshi artists to explore the possibilities of the body and the space that it occupies. Through a series of planned physical and mental exercises an attempt was made to break-out of what we understand as the 'normal' workings of the body, its automatic responses, and coded behavioral patterns. These seminars consider the body as the primary tool of expression, a tool that also allows traditional arts such as painting, sculpture, and photography. The12 visiting artists and curators from 8 countries indicated a desire to work with individuals from a theater, music, dance, and architecture background in addition to the visual artists. Interestingly, some of the most successful performance artists in the world do not come from a visual arts background and the Samdani Art Foundation wants to facilitate collaborations across creative disciplines.
Half of the seminars are open to the public and are in collaboration with the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka and the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. All of visiting artists have featured in leading exhibitions such as the Venice Biennale, Documenta, Sharjah Biennale, Guggenheim Musum, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, among others. They have conducted free lectures to complement the existing curriculum of Bangladesh's leading educational institutions. The other half of the seminars are closed door discussions with a group of 16 participants, selected by the artists from a strong applicant pool of 60.
On the first day of the Seminars, March 20, French artist Myriam Lefkowitz conducted a workshop about individual attention in Old Dhaka. She has conducted similar workshops in Paris, Stockholm, and at the Venice Biennale. The next day, French curators Sandra Terdjman and Gregory Castera gave a closed door lecture about the role of research in ambitious art commissions that can impact society. They later gave a public lecture at the Alliance Francaise to an audience of 120 people from varied disciplines and NGOs. The curators plan to return to Bangladesh to work with Bangladeshi artists and NGOs. On March 23, painter Sandeep Mukherjee gave a public lecture to 200 students at the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka, speaking about the role of the body in his paintings, many of which have been collected by museums such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Mukherjee also visited the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy to make a new solo project for Dhaka Art Summit 2016.
The following day, Poland's most famous living artist, Pawel Althamer, conducted a spontaneous intervention with 200 students at Charukala, adapting a famous performance and sculpture by Polish Modern Artist Tadeusz Kantor by having the students move their heavy writing desks onto the street, and bringing their thoughts to life within the wider community rather than locked away in a classroom. Following this performance, the participants and Pawel engaged in a "Draftsmen's Congress" - and created a collective painting all together. This project has also been done at leading institutions such as the New Museum in New York and the Berlin Biennial.
The seminars will resume today with closed door seminars with leading Indian performance artist Nikhil Chopra - who will be conducting a 5 day workshop with local Bangladeshi artists. The public can attend the open day of these workshops on April 8th at the closing ceremony at 12pm at Bangladesh Shilpakala Acadmey. Leading Norwegian artist Tori Wranes, who has performed at the Sydney Biennial and Performa in New York, will be conducting a workshop and giving a live performance with her assistant Gustav Gunvaldsen on April 8 at 4pm.
Lebanese sound artist Tarek Atoui, who also just completed a teaching semester at MIT will come to Dhaka in the fall to give a lecture to students at the Faculty of Fine Arts, Dhaka and also to do research and collaborate with local musicians and instrument makers. Gianni Jetzer, curator at large at the Hischhorn Museum in Washington, DC and curator of Art Basel will come to do group critique and studio visits with the participants to close the 2015 programme ahead of the Dhaka Art Summit.
About the visiting artists
Tarek Atoui is a Paris based sound artist and composer and is developing a permanent reflection on the concept of the instrument and the act of a performance itself as a complex, open and dynamic process. Born in 1980, he moved to France in 1998 where he studied economics and electroacoustic music. Tarek was the Artistic Director at STEIM in Amsterdam in 2008. He has performed in New Museum (2009/2011), Sharjah Biennial (2009/2013), dOCUMENTA 13 (2012) and 8th Berlin Biennial (2014).
Nikhil Chopra's artistic practice ranges between live art, theatre, painting, photography, sculpture and installations. His performances, in large part improvised, dwell on issues such as identity, the role of autobiography, the pose and self-portraiture, reflects on the process of transformation and the part played by the duration of performance. Taking autobiographical elements as his starting point, Chopra combines everyday life and collective history; daily acts such as eating, resting, washing and dressing, but also drawing and making clothes, acquire the value of ritual, becoming an essential part of the show.
Madhavi Gore is a visual artist whose interdisciplinary art practice engages performance, painting and drawing, craft and pedagogy. After University in the United States, Madhavi worked in Mumbai as an art writer with Art India Magazine, and went on to organize and facilitate studio-art workshops on new practices and critical thought for college-level students. Currently based in Goa, she collectively runs an international artist residency space, called The Heritage Hotel. The space is scheduled to have its first opening event in October 2014. Recently she has been collaborating with artists' Jana Prepeluh, and her partner Nikhil Chopra, on 'body workshop', a studio-art workshop focused on exploring transformation through the practice of performance.
Myriam Lefkowitz is Paris based performance artist, whose work explores the relation between the perceptive body and different forms of environment. Her ongoing project since 2010, the Walk, hands, eyes (a city) has been presented all over the world including the 55th Venice Biennale (2013). Currently she is an artist in residency in les Laboratoires d'Aubervilliers. Myriam is on the teaching committee of SPEAP, at Science Po, Paris, a master's program of experimentation in art and politics founded by Bruno Latour and regularly invited to teach or talk on those matters in different institutions: the museum of modern art Georges Pompidou, the Mac Val museum, the Palais de Tokyo, Open School East in London, Le HEAD in Geneva.
Jana Prepeluh is Slovenian performance artist, currently based in Goa. She founded the ?umnata gallery and shop in Ljubljana where she scheduled thoughtful urban art projects and organized street-fashion shows. Together with Aleksandra ?ali? she created a short video entitled Punk nije mrtav Kenedi (Punk Is Not Dead Kenedi). Her performance works include Wailing where wails and weeps, mourning people and situations either for her inner, personal reasons or at the request of others and Pri Tleh (Down To Earth) - a research on the attitude to non-material or manual work by overworked alienated individuals in a contemporary society in which work is still associated with social status. She also collaborates with the Slovene theatre group Grejpfrut.
Tori Wr?nes is a Norwegian performance artist, combining voice and sculpture as point of departure. She is investigating different ways to exist, allowing them to unfold. Her use of sounds, costumes, props, architecture and sculptures deforms her appearance and creates new constellations. Born in 1978, Wr?nes graduated from Oslo National Academy of the Arts in 2009. Her recent works include a new commission for the 19th Biennale of Sydney which has traveled to the Astrup Fearnley Museum in Norway; YES NIX, a commission work for PERFORMA 13 in NEW YORK; and SPIN ECHO, a concert in Disney Concert Hall parking structure in Los Angeles, in collaboration with LAXART. At the moment, Wr?nes is on a one year residence at ISCP New York.
Grégory Castéra is founder and co-director of Council, an agency for research and artistic production that explores the relations between arts, sciences, philanthropy and politics. Previously, he served as co-director of Les Laboratoires d'Aubervilles, Paris from 2010 to 2012. Over this period he conducted various research projects on discourse formation within artistic practices, giving rise to publishing projects, shows, events and exhibitions. Based in Paris, Castéra's practice is between curatorial and performance.
Sandra Terdjman is a Paris based curator. In 2013, she co-founded Council with Grégory Castéra. She is also the founding director of Kadist Art Foundation - a private foundation based in Paris and San Francisco, dedicated to supporting contemporary art. Presently she serves as the Director of Council and Advisor for the Kadist