Dhaka Art Summit, “বন্যা/Bonna”
              Pallavi Surana
              Drawing inspiration from a literal translation of Bonna—the Bangla word for flood and a common girls’ name—this sixth edition of the Dhaka Art Summit looked at the social and ecological impact of climate change in Bangladesh. Under the direction of Diana Campbell (the curator’s fifth edition), this theme is channeled through the imagination and playfulness of the eponymous fictional child as she grows up in an environment under threat. Of the many dichotomies that this edition sought to challenge across its nine days—disaster and regeneration, natural and built environments, binary gender norms—the most noticeable friction was between criticality and approachability. Campbell has insisted that she sees this research and exhibition platform as closer to a music festival than a biennale, noting that the previous iteration attracted half a million visitors. This attempt to navigate between the expectations of a visiting international audience professionally engaged in the art world and the desire to appeal to a large local audience resulted—across more than 120 artists, over half of them showing new commissions—in a curatorial impulse to foreground work deemed approachable and entertaining. Scattered through the main venue of the Shilpakala Academy were large-scale, colorful, eye-catching works. Bhasha Chakrabarti’s Tender Transgressions (2022–23)
              Dhaka Art Summit
              Kjetil Røed
              Munem Wasif’s serene photographs, which are among the first works you encounter at the Dhaka Art Summit, depict one apparently desolate landscape after another. But if you stay with the images—don’t follow the urge to move on—then small figures start to appear. In one, which seems initially to document nothing but a barren landscape of rocks, gravel, and a pool of water, a bathing man becomes visible. A head, hands, kneecaps break gently through the surface of the water, and of our first impressions. The space around the man opens up, nature unfolds into culture, and landscape becomes a background for imagined narratives about the man taking a dip in the pond. The presence of the body converts a beautiful landscape into a space for imagining the past and the future. Is he a farmer who has left his cows on the riverbank? Or a poet, perhaps, thinking of Narcissus, gazing at his own image in the watery reflections? Art spaces are thoroughly scripted. We move through them by (often unconsciously) following instructions, and direct our attention according to narratives about what is worth seeing and not, decisions taken in our heads and expressed with our feet. But there are always glitches …
              Dispatch: Dhaka Art Summit
              Natasha Ginwala
              A young woman hovers about one story above ground, secured to a central column in the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (National Academy of Fine and Performing Arts) in Dhaka. As part of her performance Sat on a Chair (2014), artist Yasmin Jahan Nupur remains trapped and uncannily motionless over the space of three hours. In direct contrast, beneath her is a crowd of restive art-goers who ricochet the vibe of the heaving metropolis beyond the precincts of the academy building, playing host to the second edition of the Dhaka Art Summit, a three-day arts festival initiated and produced by the Samdani Art Foundation. The event drew a wide range of local and international audiences—many flocking in from the commercial India Art Fair, which took place in Delhi from January 30–February 2, 2014. Since the Indian capital has remained the prime cultural gateway for much of the international art world claiming an interest in South Asia so far, it was refreshing to experience a de-centralized engagement with the arts in Bangladesh’s capital city, Dhaka, featuring artists and institutions from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and other parts of the region, who have rarely had the occasion to physically gather as part of the same platform …

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