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India, Pakistan script a new chapter in Venice Bienle's history

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  6 April 2015 12:00 AM GMT

New Delhi, April 5: History is in the making at the 120-year-old Venice Bienle as India and Pakistan are coming together at arguably the world’s biggest contemporary art platform to initiate a cultural dialogue that transcends physical barriers and political tensions. Born out of the desire to reposition the complex climate of historical relations between India and Pakistan, the event “My East is Your West” will witness the participation of Mumbai-based Shilpa Gupta and Lahore-based Rashid Ra - both of whom are known for their artistic mastery in the world of contemporary art - with a wide view of exploring physical, temporal and relationship tension between their subjects, at the 56th edition of the bienle that will run from May 9 to November 22.

However, the credit for initiating the process, raising funds and supporting the vision should go to the Gujral Foundation, an organisation that supports contemporary cultural engagements, which realised the under-representation of India and Pakistan at the reputed Venice platform.

“It was the realisation that one-third of the world’s population is not represented at the global platform of contemporary art; the question was why were we missing from this platform despite the fact that we have extremely reputed contemporary artists,” Feroze Gujral, co-founder of the foundation med after her father-in-law and prominent painter Satish Gujral, told IANS. Though the idea was born three years ago when Gujral and Ra were chatting and realised the lacu was too big to be filled, the question was: Who would bell the cat?

Given the fact that India’s first official representation at the bienle was only in 2011 and that of Pakistan was in 1956, the under-representation was staring right in the face. So began the process of getting artists on board and raising money for the project. Gujral admitted that this being a “pride project”, she had to convince people to pump in money to ensure the event sustains for a good six months at Palazzo Benzon, where the artworks will be displayed.

Ra was an obvious choice because he is the reputed face of contemporary art in Pakistan whose work examines the intersection of the actual and remote, which then becomes a reflection on non-linear chronologies. His approach to art is very much similar to that of Gupta, who explores the relationship between the citizens and the state. And they are friends and know each other for almost a decade.

This familiarity definitely facilitated smooth conversations between them as they exchanged ideas to ensure the objects have a rrative that connects the shared history of the two countries. Despite these umpteen similarities and associations, Ra felt their visual vocabularies are completely different and yet they correspond in surprising ways.

“We do understand the broad common ideas in our respective practices, but what’s more notable is that we are also attuned to each other’s radically different vocabularies,” Ra told IANS in an email interview.

“Shilpa has an effective sensitive visual language while I am interested in similar ideas from a broader detached perspective. Our works will come together in Venice in a way that they retain their autonomy and yet form an integral whole - often corresponding in subtle, surprising ways,” he added. (IANS)

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