31 July - 24 August, 2013

The Guild, Mumbai

Participating Artists

Tayeba Begum Lipi, Mahbubur Rahman, Promotesh Das Pulak, Molla Sagar, Anisuzzaman Sohel

Borders on land are made up of barbed wire fencing and high walls, extreme military security, extreme emotional insecurity.

The word floss behaves as a thorough cleanser with a fine thread, which removes, cleanses and frees blockages.

‘Barbed Floss’ conjures the anti-thesis of these two aspects, contradicting and creating new notions associated with these two terms. The border between India and Bangladesh has a 3,406 km. barbed wire fence that was recently completed to prevent immigration. These borders between countries are implied by and to people where issues of understanding, conversation and migration are discussed in view of relationships, nature, exchange and employment. The river water changes territory, and the waters drift through undisputed; raw elements pass in and out while the barbed winds floss the skies overhead.

In this exhibition, five artists of Bangladeshi origin explore issues of space, borders, territory, medium, politics and disputed solutions. Each artist has a strong individual reflection of issues related to the notion of ‘Barbed Floss’ and express it through their use of medium and renewed association with their personal experiences, histories and country.

Tayeba Begum Lipi’s work - ‘From 1.7 million mi² To 55,598 mi²’ - a series of four circular panels framed in razor blades, sear separation, partitions and memories. The subcontinent with a land mass of 1.7 million sq. miles, is dissected into maps of Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. The hallucination and desires of unity and oneness are things of the past. The artist recalls - “When I was a child, I used to hear about THOSE HAPPY DAYS from my parents while the inhabitant from different beliefs and perspectives used to live together happily in one large land.” The happiness was an unselected political option against those of homelessness, refugees and unrest. Lipi’s four etched maps on mirror polished stainless-steel plates, create a scratched and wounded reflection of the viewers who are survivors or an aftermath of partitions, borders and barbed fences.

Borders in any land scratch the land itself. Mahbubur Rahman’s works depict this pressure created by man-made systems of divisions that plug the natural flow of human relationships, communication and understanding. Borders themselves inherently have the quality of unusual movement that politically fluctuate social understanding amongst harmonious communities and pre-existing neighbourhoods. Rahman grew up in an older part of Dhaka that had the most interactive neighbourhoods where people of different religions happily resided in its architectural beauty. “In my childhood I used to hang out with my friends from one para (certain area with one society) to another para visiting all the old buildings, amongst which, some were abandoned and some badly maintained. People used to call these abandoned houses ‘enemy properties’. I wondered why they were called ‘enemy properties’...they did not belong to the anti-Bangladeshi’s but Bangali Hindu communities before the 1971 war.” Suffocated and pressurized by borders, claustrophobia similar to type in operation theatres, creation of borders through barbed fences, visas, immigration and passports the artist creates sculptures out of stainless-steel scissors that depict the dissection and pressure of the spirit of freedom, while constantly protecting oneself and being on guard.

To deal “loudly with the heights and frights of political civilization”, Anisuzzaman Sohel has created a series of mixed media works that include reflections of his own appearance to depict the projection of being a first-hand victim of the spoken partition. Describing his works as an “interior monologue”, the artist juxtaposes the sharp and the fine, the flowers with the daggers and clichés the freedom of birds with barbed wires. Sohel ploys beauty with brute, existing yet struggling unresolved at any given instance. His relationship with his works and imagination is a permeable border between hypo and hyper, real and surreal.

The borders in the sub-continent were drawn with the first partition of 1947. In 1971, after the second partition and Bangladesh’s independence, the non-permeable Indo-Bangladeshi barrier was created. This barbed fence wire is considered to be the fifth longest border in the world. Ethnicities, communities, houses were all partitioned and allotted different nationalities, depending on which side of the political borders they fell.

“To drag a line, to separate, the barbed wire went across the middle of the green field, road, yard and even the middle of the house in some areas. But the people who have the same blood flowing through their vein (and vain), have the same provisions, mounting up in the same area and lived simultaneously for thousands of can a border separate them being together? Is it possible to divide with a boundary marker?!” Promotesh Das Pulak’s installation of ‘Twins’ in an incubator, created out of the beautiful white shoal flowers, depicts the betrayal of innocence and beauty through rules and laws that destroyed faith and togetherness unblinkingly. The position of the twins inside the incubator acts as a vulnerable metaphor of sharing food, oxygen and physical attributions. This work alludes to the notion of partition, division and separation in marked territories that once shared similar histories, cultures and identities.

Borders, the name of politics’; by Molla Sagar is the story of Bijoy Sircar, a well-known bard of Bengal, who was unable to let go of his affinity towards his land and people. In 1947 - post partitions - he decided to stay behind in East Bengal, which later came to be known as Bangladesh. “The relationship of the soul that exists between each of us, was deepened by his songs. Ten million people took shelter in our neighbouring India in 1971. However, the expectation this man had from Bangladesh post 1971 independence, his notion of this nation, was estranged after 1974. Bijoy Sarkar had to leave this country. While leaving his motherland, he sung on. In the song, is captured the emptiness felt by all the people of this world, leaving their home lands for the unknown.” Sagar recreates this in his video through a performance of Bijoy Sircar’s ‘Bichchhedi Gaan’ (Songs of Estrangement), which was a plea to remove from our minds and souls the fencing wires of laws and borders.

The works in this exhibition are homage to the resonating hollow cry beyond politics, beyond countries, beyond continents; across borders and over wires into freedom, peace and harmony to floss homes, families, oceans, fields, land and skies.

Text by Veeranganakumari Solanki.

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