INTERVIEW: Shubho Saha | Back Art
1. What inspired you to organize the Dhaka Live Art Biennale (D’LAB)?
Back ART holds a yearly performance workshop called ‘Songlaap’. After Songlaap 2016, I envisioned a bi-annual Live Art Biennale, involving all kinds of Live Art, in effect an international hub in Dhaka for Live Art artists from around the world. When I proposed this idea to my Back ART team, they agreed at once. We announced the D’LAB 2017 Open Call at the end of 2016, and received a huge response. Many artists want to come, visit and work in Bangladesh. D’LAB is now a bi-annual international art project of Back ART.
2. Why do you think D’LAB is important, especially in Bangladesh? Is there any specific theme to it?
D’LAB is a platform for all sorts of Live Art: performances, experimental actions, and activities. D’LAB aims to introduce unique interdisciplinary performative activity to the local art scene and the public. We believe D’LAB is important, especially for the Bangladeshi art scene and society in general, because its aim is exploring sightlines of common struggle … turning art into a social practice, thereby ensuring a narrowing down of the gap between art and public, local and global artist communities. In addition, diversity and multiculturalism are aspects that D’LAB seeks to address. Back ART believes that D’LAB will be a platform allowing artists from all background and countries of origin to explore all Live Art mediums, including living artistic traditions. We’re aiming to establish a magnificent event with global as well as local narratives of diversity, social harmony and peaceful coexistence of communities and religions, as well as promoting artistic innovation.
Performance art, alternative art or intermedia art is not being taught in any of the art academies or institutions in Bangladesh, so the Back ART Foundation wants to develop a sustainable and unique academy for alternative art practice in Bangladesh, and D’LAB will work as a springboard for this vision.
3. How many participants took part? What criteria did you use to select the participants?
D’LAB 2019 had more than 100 participants from 26 different countries, who engaged in various events and activities. We announced an Open Call inviting participants to apply for a specific event, and a board selected a limited number of finalists. We received nearly 100 international applications and selected 25 proposals. In terms of participants from Bangladesh, the board recommended 10 participants/proposals. We also had an Open Call for our 10 D’LAB educational workshops. Going forward, we plan to use Open Calls for every event, because we realize this process helps participants build their portfolios professionally. It is a learning process for the younger generation, especially those who have just graduated, as well as all other practicing artists.
4. What impact do you think D’LAB had on its viewers?
Through Live Art, D’LAB connected with people in communities across Dhaka. Local and traditional art forms, such as puppetry and crafts, performing art, etc. were integrated vividly with modern art practice. We believe D’LAB helped in building community culture through our varied public and art education workshops. D’LAB created a positive vibration in the local community, promoting artistic development in Bangladesh, engaging the masses on many levels, strengthening the relationship between art and community. The performance of Live Art in public venues brought art to the public, a unique, original and valuable experience for the community. This event brought us international exposure and communicated a strong sense of the art and culture of Bangladesh. The participants from various countries helped spread the news in the global community. Bringing International artists to Bangladesh, involving them in art activities and letting them experience the local culture definitely benefits the local community, inspires young artists, and has a positive impact on local art, culture and the economy as well. D’LAB was able to demonstrate the significance of the Bangladeshi public art scene to a world audience.
5. What are the next projects we can expect from Back ART?
The Back ART team has already announced an upcoming avant-garde international public art project that will address climate change regionally. We are now doing research and making preparations for this project for later in 2019. Our vision is to involve 10 Asian countries, one by one. It is a community-based project that aims to expand the social conversation about climate change in a more coherent and clear way. We expect to go public with more information about this project soon!
Shubho O Saha
Artistic Director, D’LAB
President, Back ART Foundation