All You Need To Know About Filmmaker Amar Kanwar's Upcoming Exhibitions

BY Reefaya Noortaj / Mar 23 2020 / 18:14 PM

Ishara Art Foundation and The NYUAD Art Gallery have joined hands with Indian contemporary artist Amar Kanwar in an effort to give South Asian minorities a voice

All You Need To Know About Filmmaker Amar Kanwar's Upcoming Exhibitions
Photograph by Ismail Noor | Seeing Things
Installation view: Amar Kanwar Such a Morning, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Ishara Art Foundation

The founders of Ishara Art Foundation and The NYUAD Art Gallery have collaborated with renowned contemporary Indian filmmaker Amar Kanwar on two exhibitions spanning his compelling new works.

Featured at Dubai-based non-profit institution Ishara Art Foundation is Such a Morning (2017), a feature-length film installation, while The NYUAD Art Gallery is home to The Sovereign Forest (2011), an ongoing multimedia installation that is a creative response to crime, politics, human rights and ecological crises.

“There is an underlying and more important rationale that works on two levels,” says Maya Allison, Executive Director of The NYUAD Art Gallery.  “First, because Amar Kanwar works at such a large scale, one rarely has the opportunity to see two major projects by him in such proximity. Second, that proximity allows a deeper sense of the forces at work in his practice.” The Sovereign Forest at The NYUAD Art Gallery highlights the notions of crime and evidence, while Such a Morning focuses on the resulting comprehension of loss and grief.

Amar Kanwar
Installation view: Amar Kanwar: Such a Morning, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, 2018 Photo: Cathy Carver

Kanwar’s films challenge numerous topographies such as labour and indigenous rights, gender, religious fundamentalism and ecology. “When you live in such a situation where you cannot see all the parts of the violence, some of it becomes continuously invisible and the rest of the violence becomes normal, you come to terms with it, you accept it, you forget, you adjust, you live with it. This is a common reality in South Asia,” expresses Kanwar as he explains the meaning behind Such a Morning and what it means for those who are trying to escape such realities and mindsets.

The artist also emphasises the difficulty of trying to convey the silent desire for violence and the unshakeable prejudice and bewildering selective indifferences. This latest film installation brought him to step back in order to reconceive and reconfigure alternative responses. The film ultimately highlights hope even when darkness befalls someone and that darkness is not necessarily negative and keeps on changing.

Amar Kanwar
Installation view: Amar Kanwar Such a Morning, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Ishara Art Foundation. Photograph by Ismail Noor | Seeing Things

Kanwar’s installation The Sovereign Forest, which is a long-term collaboration of the artist with media activist Sudhir Pattnaik and designer-cum-filmmaker Sherna Dastur, comprises two films; The Scene of Crime and A Love Story. “I have been filming the resistance of local communities in the state of Orissa to the industrial interventions taking place since 1999,” says Kanwar. “In 2010, I returned again to Orissa but time to film, in particular, the terrain of this devastating conflict. Almost every image in this film lies within specific territories that are proposed industrial sites and are in the process of being acquired by government and corporations in Orissa.”  

The second film in The Sovereign Forest, A Love Story “is a miniature narrative in four acts where time becomes fluid as the image is distilled to its inner self,” explains the artist. “The film lies at the fringe of the expanding Indian city, a world of continuous migration and therefore of continuous separations. It is in this terrain of separation that A Love Story is located. Sequentially, cyclically and simultaneously, it becomes the companion, the prelude, and the postscript to The Scene of Crime.”

Amar Kanwar
Installation view: Amar Kanwar: Such a Morning, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, 2018 Photo: Cathy Carver

The two solo projects shed light on the political situation circulating in particular states and give a voice to minority groups who are struggling on a daily basis in India and beyond. “Our hope is that this dual exhibition will set a trend of cross-Emirate collaborations, and allow our community to begin thinking in terms of potential larger synergies among our different institutions,” says Allison.

“The two exhibitions serve as a call and response, and call again: loss and grief giving rise to expanding understanding of what questions and what answers are possible.”

Such a Morning at Ishara Art Foundation in Alserkal Avenue, Dubai, is on view until 20 May 2020
The Sovereign Forest at The NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery in the capital is on view until 30 May 2020


From the spring 2020 issue of Harper's Bazaar Art