Samdani Art Foundation




February 5-8, 2016  |  MUNEM WASIF  |  Dhaka Art Summit

Munem Wasif, Land of the Undefined Territory, 2015, Project debut at the Dhaka Art Summit 2016 with partial production support from Samdani Art Foundation. Courtesy of the artist, Dhaka Art Summit and Samdani Art Foundation. Photo credit: Jenni Carter

Munem Wasif’s haunting series of photographs and three-channel video of an undefined land elucidates the dialectic relationship between a land and its identity, an identity at risk given the relatively new concept of the nation state and of the environmental effects of man’s “progress” post the industrial revolution. Situated on the edge of a blurred boundary of Bangladesh and India, the mundane, almost extra-terrestrial land hides human interaction with its surface and exposes ever-changing curves with Wasif’s repetitive frames. It seems that frames rarely move from each other, slowing down time and motion and blurring the character of a land, disassociating it from its political and geographical identity. This Solo Project, entitled Land of the Undefined Territory questions the identity of a land that is tied to a specific political and geographic context, but which could also be anywhere, as Wasif displaces the viewer from space and time. Wasif’s dispassionate and systematic approach in this series mimics that of an investigation, topographic study, geological survey or a mere aesthetic query, however his technique of using look-alike frames and ambient sounds overcomes the optical unconscious of the camera and evokes elusive feelings and absurd sensitivity in the viewer.

The chosen area of land in this series is a mere observer of nearly a hundred years of land disputes, which saw colonization, 1947’s divide of the Indian subcontinent and mass-migration with Partition, and 1971’s liberation war of Bangladesh which created the current border tension with the neighbouring country, India. Absence of any profound identity for its existence never diminishes its presence, and its body carries the wound of aggressive industrial acts, such as stone collection and crushing. This land belongs to no one, and is thus exploitable by anyone motivated to avail of the land’s unlikely riches. As hills and mountains are cut away to mine the material needed to build Bangladesh’s roads, the communities who have lived on the land for thousands of years become alien to it, as they can no longer identify their community by natural markers. In his video, Wasif captures suspended motions by not moving the camera and by recording predominantly still objects, enhancing the sense of timeless limbo that has now come to define this land, and potentially elsewhere in the future.