Artist Cinemas

The Films of Amit Dutta

Programmed by Iman Issa
Films by Amit Dutta

Accompanied by a conversation between Amit Dutta and Iman Issa

*Last day repeat screenings of all films from Monday, April 18 through Tuesday, April 19, 12pm EDT

“There are occasions when an encounter with another artist’s work leaves you with a feeling that you may describe, for lack of a better word, as an affinity with that work. An affinity is not a matter of simply admiring or respecting another maker’s work, but a far stranger feeling. It is a contradictory sense of being both attuned to a work’s deepest reasons for existing as well as amazed that it actually exists. Feeling an affinity with a work might make you think that you are able to fully grasp its logic. This, however, is accompanied by the discernment of an impossibility inherent to the work, drilled in again and again, with each new encounter, by a recognition of its absolute peculiarity. You attribute to the work an uncanniness that comes from an inability to believe that someone has thought to make such a work, in that way, taking that form, which strikes you as both disturbingly familiar and utterly alien. You may even believe that, under different circumstances, you would have made similar work yourself, while knowing perfectly well that you could never have thought to do so. 

“These are some of the thoughts that were going through my mind watching Amit Dutta’s films. I discovered his films during the early days of the pandemic and haven’t stopped looking and listening since. Amit Dutta is a prolific director, with more than forty short and feature-length films to his name; yet his films are near impossible to find, aside from the rare run in a film festival or a museum screening. They span different styles, methods, and subject matter, yet they share a sensibility and, more discernibly, a heightened sensitivity to the medium at hand, a medium that as a viewer you can’t help but constantly reflect on, without ever being able to divorce it from the material it is showing. In these films form, content, and media are inextricable. In these films nothing feels accidental, or more precisely, all the accidents feel as if they have been accounted for by the films that show them. In a way, these are films that make their own viewers. They remind one that viewing is not a simple act of reception but an act of engagement. That there is such a thing as a labor to viewing, a labor that confronted with the right set of material makes itself necessary. And for those who choose to undertake it, for those who decide to attentively watch and listen and think, it will surely pay off. 

“Here is a selection of six films that in no way offers an exhaustive view of this multi-versed filmmaker’s oeuvre. One may think of them as a wanting introduction to some aspects of a practice that has so much more to show and offer. Their choice and sequence is meant to highlight some features of Dutta’s works, from the use of sound, to the organizational logics he employs, to his handling of narratives and materials, as well as some of the intersections in concerns that I think, feel, or imagine to exist between us.”

—Iman Issa

The Films of Amit Dutta is programmed by Iman Issa as the tenth cycle of Artist Cinemas, a long-term, online series of film programs curated by artists for e-flux Video & Film.

The program runs in six weekly episodes from March 7 through April 18, 2022, and features six films by Amit Dutta accompanied by a conversation in six parts between Amit Dutta and Iman Issa, published in text form. A new film and part of the conversation are released every Monday. Each film streams for the duration of one week.


Week 1: March 7–13, 2022
Scenes from a Sketchbook (2016, 21 minutes) is based on and inspired by the tinted brush drawings, sketches, and some finished yet minimalistic works of the eighteenth-century master miniature painter Nainsukh. Even in some of his finished paintings, the artist did not hide his corrections and aforethoughts, which he allowed to show through a mostly untouched stark page. This film attempts to do the same.

Week 2: March 14–20, 2022
Nainsukh (2010, 82 minutes) delves into the mid-eighteenth century, where an extraordinary master painter from the Himalayan foothills of Guler sets out on a journey to meet his patron in the small hill-state of Jasrota. He finds his match in the eccentric employ of Balwant Singh, the only remaining testimony of which are the painter’s intimately observant portraits of his employer.

Week 3: March 21–27, 2022
In Chitrashala (2015, 19 minutes), when a gallery of paintings becomes emptied of its spectators, the curtains rise within the paintings.

Week 4: March 28–April 3, 2022
The Unknown Craftsman (2017, 88 minutes) recounts a story taking place towards the end of the eighth century, when an architect journeys across the mountains of the Lower Himalayas in search of the perfect site for constructing a temple, envisioned not merely as a place of worship but also as a monumental record capable of crystallizing the collective accomplishment of a civilization. Is he equal to the task? He faces his own fears while the forces of nature test his learning along the path. When he arrives at the destination, mysterious apprentices assist him; but the work attains perfection midway and remains unfinished.

Week 5: April 4–10, 2022
The Museum of Imagination: A Portrait in Absentia (2012, 20 minutes) came into being as a result of several conversations the filmmaker recorded with Prof. B.N. Goswamy, an important art historian of India, covering his entire body of work. Interspersed with his speech were also some silences. This film draws upon some of those moments of silence and weaves them into a web of ideas and images that fill the art historian’s mindscape. 

Week 6: April 11–17, 2022
Mother, Who Will Weave Now? (2022, 25 minutes) attempts to sample and mirror the grand tapestry of Indian textile tradition and history by interweaving snippets of Indian cloth on an editing table, using the poetic meters of classical Indian literature sewn together with the words and motifs of the weaver-saint Kabir.

For more information, contact

Film, Painting
Indian Subcontinent, History, Artistic Research
Return to Artist Cinemas

Iman Issa is an artist and professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna . Solo and group exhibitions include Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin, MoMA, New York, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 21er Haus, Vienna, MACBA, Barcelona, the Perez Art Museum, Miami, the Whitney Biennial 2019, the 12th Sharjah biennial, the 8th Berlin Biennial, MuHKA, Antwerp, Tensta Konsthall, Spånga, New Museum, New York, and KW Institute of Contemporary Art, Berlin. Books include Book of Facts: A Proposition (2017), Common Elements (2015) and Thirty-three Stories about Reasonable Characters in Familiar Places (2011). She has been named a 2017 DAAD artist in residence, and is a recipient of the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise (2017), the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (2015), HNF-MACBA Award (2012), and the Abraaj Group Art Prize (2013).


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