October 14, 2019 - NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery - Amar Kanwar
October 14, 2019

NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery

From left to right: (1) Amar Kanwar, The Scene of Crime (installation view from The Sovereign Forest). Courtesy of artist and Marian Goodman Gallery. Photo: Henrik Stromberg. (2) Amar Kanwar, Such a Morning (film still). Courtesy of artist. Photo: Amar Kanwar Studio.

Amar Kanwar
Such a Morning and The Sovereign Forest
A collaboration with Ishara Art Foundation
January 20–May 30, 2020

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In a groundbreaking collaboration across Abu Dhabi and Dubai, The NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) Art Gallery and Ishara Art Foundation will both open solo projects in spring 2020 by Amar Kanwar, one of India’s most critically-acclaimed and internationally-exhibited contemporary artists.

The Ishara Art Foundation, a non-profit institution dedicated to contemporary South Asian art and artists in West Asia, will host Such a Morning (2017) from January 20 to May 20, while The NYUAD Art Gallery, the University’s academic museum-gallery, will show The Sovereign Forest from January 22 to May 30.

Chairperson at Ishara Art Foundation, Smita Prabhakar, comments: “Our goal at Ishara Art Foundation is to champion South Asian voices and share compelling contemporary artistic practices. This collaboration with The NYUAD Art Gallery allows us to bring audiences in the UAE an even greater depth of work by Amar Kanwar, offering a comprehensive introduction to the practice of one of South Asia’s foremost artists. Such a Morning is a key work by the artist, offering us deep insight into how we might face contemporary challenges. As a new member of the UAE arts community, we are honoured to work alongside NYUAD Art Gallery on this presentation, and look forward to future collaborations that benefit and grow our shared audiences.”

Chief Curator at NYU Abu Dhabi and Executive Director of The NYUAD Art Gallery, Maya Allison, comments: “This is an exceptional exhibition and collaboration for us. I’m delighted that our collaboration will enable audiences here to have the rare experience of seeing two such major Amar Kanwar projects in proximity. It is a unique privilege to host his thought-provoking and critically important work. The Sovereign Forest is, in many ways, a ‘living’ art work, which continues to grow and shift with each installation, as do the questions it brings to light. The opening of the Ishara Art Foundation earlier this year marks an important new chapter for South Asian art in the UAE. When we opened our doors five years ago, I hoped we would one day see such a trans-institutional collaboration—one that benefits our university faculty and students, as well as our broader UAE audiences.”

About Such a Morning at Ishara Art Foundation
Such a Morning (2017) is a feature-length film installation, which premiered internationally at documenta 14 in Athens, Greece, and Kassel, Germany. The fictional narrative which follows two central characters who grapple with a hallucinatory world is a parable for the complex challenges of our times. Kanwar asks: “What is it that lies beyond, when all arguments are done with? How to reconfigure and respond again?”

The film follows an aging mathematics professor who retreats from his career, seeking isolation in an abandoned train carriage. Creating a zone of darkness so as to acclimatize himself before total darkness descends, the professor begins to live in a realm bereft of light. The many iterations and sensory possibilities of darkness and visibility are explored as he gradually screens out all the light and enters a subjective world. A parallel story about a woman emerges within the course of the film, providing a compelling, analogous narrative to the protagonist’s. Meanwhile, the professor records his epiphanies and visions in an almanac of the dark, an examination of 49 types of darkness that emerge as a series of letters which are exhibited alongside the film.

Kanwar conceived a narrative that continues beyond the film—the professor continues to write his letters—towards a research project with diverse artistic, pedagogic, metaphysical, and political collaborations. These become the rubric for a continuing project, and are at the core of the series of Letters that accompany the film. The handmade paper for Letters was done by Sherna Dastur at the Nirupama Academy of Paper, Kolkata, India. Such a Morning offers a rich lens for audiences to contemplate these core themes from a South Asian perspective, focusing on issues relevant to global audiences today.

Produced with the support of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in New Delhi, AKF Productions, and Marian Goodman Gallery. 

Ishara Art Foundation is presented in partnership with Alserkal Avenue.

About The Sovereign Forest at The NYUAD Art Gallery
The Sovereign Forest is an ongoing multimedia installation that is a creative response to crime, politics, human rights, and ecological crisis. It evolved out of the political and environmental conflict in the resource-rich, and largely tribal Indian state of Odisha. Kanwar has been observing and documenting the industrial interventions that have irrevocably altered Odisha’s landscape for more than a decade. The Sovereign Forest is a long-term commitment of the artist with media activist Sudhir Pattnaik, and designer and filmmaker Sherna Dastur.

Multiple works make up The Sovereign Forest, which has appeared in different iterations. At its core are two films: The Scene of the Crime (2011), a film that documents landscapes selected for industrial development prior to their obliteration, and A Love Story (2010), about the experience of that loss. The installation will include three large handmade books, The Counting Sisters and Other Stories (2011), The Prediction (1991–2012), and The Constitution (2012) with their own films projected on its pages. Containing local fables, stories of the incarcerated, and pieces of “evidence” such as a fishing net, a cloth garment, rice seeds, a betel leaf, and newspaper embedded inside the paper, visitors are encouraged to turn the pages and read these stories. In an adjacent gallery, an edition of The Listening Bench (2013) will also be presented, where visitors can hear an audio track from the project. In many ways, The Sovereign Forest expands upon a theme that has become central to The NYUAD Art Gallery’s program: that of landscape as a frame for reflection and examination of where we are, culturally and physically.

Produced with the support of Samadrusti, Odisha; Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Yorkshire Sculpture Park, UK; documenta 13, Kassel; and Public Press, New Delhi.

Contacts: Maisoon.Mubarak [​at​] nyu.edu or press [​at​] ishara.org

NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery
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