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Dhaka Tribune

‘Of rivers and lost lands’

This year’s Art Summit featured works of both local and foreign names

Update : 08 Feb 2023, 01:43 AM

Dhaka Art Summit 2023 explores the power of water. With works by artists, architects, photographers, researchers, and designers, DAS 2023 was designed to educate people on the impact of environmental change on our lives and surroundings.

'Of Rivers and Lost Lands' by Sarker Protick is a photographic series exploring the Padma River and Bangladesh's waterborne land. The work, created over a 12-year span and continuing, depicts a complex interaction of intimacy and ruthlessness between nature and humans on the margins. Rural Bengal's life and ecosystem, like most of the non-urban and metropolitan worlds, have been slowly deteriorating. It is a story of loss which begins with a hostile river resulting in vast erosion and frequent floods. With these incidents, the landscape and its varied ways of existence slowly disappear into the past.

On another floor, ‘Collapse' by Munem Wasif brings forward the conflicted relationship between the idea of development and the larger ecosystem. On one side flows a mighty river while on the other stands an intrusive structure made out of rods, cement, sand and stones. In these photographs, we see a man-made structure, geometric, brutal and monumental in scale, standing tall against the forces of vigorous currents of the Jamuna river that race down on the horizontal plane amidst soft and fragile elements of nature.

Bringing forward this juxtaposition of a horizontal and vertical axis, Munem Wasif's image based installation discloses a contradictory tale of climate, life, nature and development. One can't help but ask “What is the definition of development?”

International photographers appear alongside the work of Bangladeshis Munem Wasif, Sarker Protick and others. Michael John Whelan is an Irish photographer based out of Berlin whose analogue photographs ‘And they did live by watchfires' explore light pollution, specifically skyglow, as an eco-marker of this growth and its subsequent urban expansion. Whelan photographs urban densification from a variety of places and elevations, focusing on the abstract visual gradient generated by artificial light refracting in the night sky. Working across film, video, photography and sculpture, Whelan's practice asserts the landscape as a place where traumatic narratives overlap with the evidence of anthropogenic processes. Undertaking extensive long-term projects, he documents elusive but ever-present phenomena like light pollution or darkness.

The photographic work at DAS 2023 rewards visitors with aesthetic wonders together with urgent ecological questions to ponder.

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