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Statement from the Artistic Director

Diana Campbell


Welcome to the new web portal of the Samdani Art Foundation! We thank you for being here, as your visit speaks to a desire to connect with our work in Bangladesh, and a commitment to widen your worldview by including points of view that institutionalized knowledge historically belittled or omitted entirely. We see our role as being interlocutors in this ongoing process of learning unlearning and relearning; where we elevate histories of Bangladesh and other contexts from the global majority world (i.e. the world outside of Europe and North America) above the space relegated for footnotes (a nod to DAS 2018 participant Nancy Adajania). We call ourselves a research platform – which we build through the careful acts of collecting, producing, convening, mentoring, and sharing. We created this platform through a unique collaborative process linking the passion and dedication of collectors with the creativity of artists, architects, designers, curators, writers, historians and educators executed through the hard work of our team, our partners, and our volunteers, encouraged by the enthusiasm of our growing number of participants and visitors.


We recognize that what is happening outside of the room is often the site of the most radical reimagining, where artists come together to create the conditions for great art to be made, and also activate tremendous social change in the world. At Samdani Art Foundation we are interested in art on the scale of life, far bigger than any exhibition in a gallery space can contain. Life in Dhaka pulses with a collaborative, hopeful, and can-do energy unlike anywhere else in the world; it is one of the most densely populated cities on the planet, the front line of where we feel the impacts of the world’s climate catastrophe. Dhaka Art Summit 2018 speaker Gayatri Chakravarty Spivak hit upon that when commenting that “Unless this kind of wonderful effort [of Dhaka Art Summit] is supplemented by another kind of effort, we cannot achieve the impossible possibility of a socially just world.” Our work at Samdani Art Foundation seeks to blur those boundaries between what is in the room and what is outside of the room – seeking to make a freer and more porous atmosphere for dialogue, understanding that beauty can change the world. Beauty can be impact, and impact can be beauty. 


This portal is an entry point to our ongoing and evolving work fostering connections between artists and architects of the past, the present, and the future with the Bangladeshi public, and welcoming in sensitive collaborators and visitors from all over the world to learn how to connect differently with cultures and geographies that they might not yet be familiar yet. Tied to our desire to strengthen and re-establish links that colonialism tried to sever between humanity and nature, we work to cultivate, maintain, and grow relationships, and to build confidence that these relationships can create the conditions to change how the (art) world functions. This is why Dhaka Art Summit can best be described as a family reunion, where more and more members join in, and you can see how this familiar family friend named DAS grows up more and more each time you visit her, but retains her childlike wonder, curiosity, and joy. One of the best compliments we’ve ever received at Samdani Art Foundation is that “Dhaka Art Summit is where the art world goes and they turn into people – accessible human and vulnerable.”  Dhaka Art Summit is also a place that launches many careers, partially because international CVs hold no meaning where most of our visitors are unfamiliar with traditional markers of prestige, making it possible to really talk about the work and the intentions of the artist in ways that are difficult to do on the international art circuit. As we grow, acknowledging the limitations of communicating in English, we work to build our work around concepts and words in Bangla, making them accessible to both Bangla and non-Bangla speaking audiences. 


We are working to step off of the institutionalized timelines of biennales and step closer into life’s rhythms – and long-term collaborative projects related to culture and agriculture that will soon be visible at Srihatta, the Samdani Art Centre and Sculpture Park – will give a glimpse into our stretched-out timelines of the future, inspired by projects in the previous bi-annual (but not ‘a biennial’) format Dhaka Art Summit such as Otobong Nkanga’s Landversation and Damian Ortega’s work Sisters, where we learned first-hand that nothing you can possibly try to do can make a cornfield grow in less than 90 days. We are drawn to acts of imagination informed by knowledge. Since day one, we have been planning for what does not exist yet -- trying to design a space where anyone from any background can come and have a profound encounter with art and culture, and imagine that they can play a part in building a more beautiful, socially, and environmentally just world. We would be delighted if you were to join us and our growing number of collaborators in this endeavor. 

Read more about the thinking behind Diana's vision:

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