Bearing witness

ByProma Chakraborty

Sep 19, 2020

Art is a way of preserving what was and what can be. In keeping with the idea, an exhibition by Ishara Art Foundation is bringing the artistic perspective of bearing witness to the ever-changing world   

Drawing inspiration from Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poem ‘Memory’ that was written in 1953 while he was imprisoned in the Montgomery Central Jail in Pakistan, Ishara Art Foundation titled its exhibition ‘Every Soiled Page’.

Faiz’s verses are powerful invocations that to remember we must apprehend every soiled page, listen to the reverberations collectively, even sing with them the songs that rise with each day.

Taking cues from the poem, the exhibition proposes art as a site for reverse archaeology, where materials, voices, inscriptions and testimonies produce a field of resonance for bearing witness and remembering as an act of resistance.

This group show is Ishara Art Foundation’s fourth exhibition dedicated to exploring ways in which art expands our sensitivities to witnessing and forming collective memories. Taking a silverpoint etching of an olive tree by artist Praneet Soi as a point of departure, the exhibition attempts to expand the notion of bearing witness beyond the human to the planetary dimensions of remembering.

Artist Anju Dodiya’s Shadow Lines

Soi’s practice ranges across painting, drawing, video and site-specific installations. He identifies over time patterns that emerge from an investigation of his extended social and economic landscape.

“We as a society remember, but the earth too remembers. Each fragment remembers, the trees and soil remember. If indeed history and time inscribe themselves onto the earth and encode themselves into all forms of life, where shall we begin reading? Colonialism and modernity believed in unearthing the past and gorging it out in order to preserve it. What if there are other ways of bearing witness and reading what’s inscribed on every soiled page?” questions the curator.

Artist Anju Dodiya’s work ‘Fountain’

The exhibition is curated by Sabih Ahmed and features works from the Prabhakar Collection by artists Anju Dodiya, Astha Butail, Neha Choksi, Praneet Soi and Sunil Padwal, and a newly commissioned performance installation by Inder Salim that expands the exhibition into a space of readings, recitals, inscriptions and annotations.

The exhibition is on display at Ishara Art Foundation and can also be viewed online on its official website

(Cover: Praneet Soi’s Olive Tree)