Culture
February 5, 2019

The Fabric of Fractures

Rania Habib

Share

Diana Campbell Betancourt is on a mission to galvanise an East-East dialogue. Building upon the success of this approach to the 2018 Dhaka Art Summit, the Artistic Director of the Samdani Art Foundation and Chief Curator of the Dhaka Art Summit is continuing to think and act in this direction in the lead up to Fabric(ated) Fractures, a group show of works by 15 Bangladeshi, South Asian, and Southeast Asian artists.

Curated by Campbell Betancourt and held in a collaboration between Alserkal and the Samdani Art Foundation. Opening on 9 March in Concrete at Alserkal Avenue, the exhibition explored ‘sensitive spaces—those that challenge ideas of nation, state, and territory through the works of Pablo Bartholomew, Kanak Chanpa Chakma, Rashid Choudhury, Gauri Gill and Rajesh Vangad, Shilpa Gupta, Hitman Gurung, Ayesha Jatoi, Ashfika Rahman, Joydeb Roaja, Reetu Sattar, Kamruzzaman Shadhin, Debasish Shom, Jakkai Siributr, and Munem Wasif.

“In a time of rising nationalism, when determining who belongs emphasises ideas of sameness, I try to think of important spaces where we can empathise with the cultural wealth of positions that the majority tries to wipe out,” explains Campbell Betancourt. The title of the show makes a point. “Linguistic, ethnic, cultural, and religious divides that can be found in Bangladesh today were manufactured by the British as a colonial tool to control,” says Campbell Betancourt. “Historically, different communities in Bangladesh got along peacefully, and the synthesis between them can be seen in the rich modern art history of Bengal. The fractures between them were fabricated.”

Fabric(ated) Fractures, the title, is also a nod to the selection of artworks, as textile pieces will feature prominently as a powerful storytelling tool. Three tapestries from the 1980s by the late and seminal Bangladeshi artist Rashid Choudhury - who drew inspiration from the traditional tapestry-making he encountered while studying in Spain and France, village folk culture in Bengal, as well as the works of Marc Chagall - will be showcased. Choudhury set up weaving villages in Chittagong, Western Bangladesh, upon his return from studying in Europe. Members of these villages created Cubist-inspired tapestries that explore the synthesis between myths in the village, which draw on Islam, Hinduism, Animism, and Buddhism—some of the many layers that make up the cultural fabric of Bangladesh. “This synthesis is increasingly at risk,” says Campbell Betancourt.

In a time of rising nationalism, when determining who belongs emphasises ideas of sameness, I try to think of important spaces where we can empathise with the cultural wealth of positions that the majority tries to wipe out

Diana Campbell Betancourt

Bangladeshi artist and activist Kamruzzaman Shadhin’s work Haven is Elsewhere will also be presented as part of Fabric(ated) Fractures. Commissioned for the 2018 Dhaka Art Summit, the large-scale textile piece is made from the clothing of missing people fallen victim to the human trafficking that takes place in Southern Bangladesh, and those of the Rohingya refugees who shed their sullied clothes as they crossed the Naf river on the Myanmar-Bangladesh border. “Bangladeshi women have stitched these clothes together in a therapeutic exercise, forming a huge quilt that is basically made of these fragments of bodies that have crossed borders, using traditional Bengali kantha stitching techniques to tell this painful story,” explains Campbell Betancourt.

Through this show, Campbell Betancourt also aims to put forth the idea that ‘sensitive spaces’ are no longer exclusively physical—exploring the impact of social media through the work of Kanak Chanpa Chakma, whose oil on canvas pieces and photographs, Soul Piercing, document the infamous Ramu incident of 2012, during which mobs torched and vandalised a Buddhist village in retaliation to a Facebook post from an account under a fake Buddhist name that allegedly defamed the Holy Quran.

“It was a fake Facebook post, and as a result of it, an entire village was razed,” says Campbell Betancourt. “This is a situation where a lack of understanding and fears between the country’s different communities contributed to this massively violent event—and such events have historical precedence. Artists and their work can be tools to open up minds to considering the importance of difference in society.”

Joydeb Roaja, Generation Wish Yielding Trees and Atomic Tree-8, 2017. Courtesy the Artist and Zaheera Noor

Over 700,000 Bangladeshis live and work in the UAE, and this inaugural collaboration between the Dhaka-based Samdani Art Foundation and Alserkal Avenue aims to shed a light on a little-understood, and very young nation. “It’s a secular country that is less than 50 years old, where over 40 different languages are spoken, and whose culture emerged out of many layers history,” says Campbell Betancourt, who has been working in Bangladesh for six years.

“Bangladesh is full of people who take care of each other,” she says. “It’s a dynamic place with tonnes of energy, and where culture is very important. It is a solutions-oriented place where people invent new modes of being in an increasingly difficult world.” Her role, she says, is to amplify the voices of Bangladeshi, South Asian, and Southeast Asian artists in a bid to explore artist-led issues. “All of the artists in this exhibition are witnesses to their own time. And though Bangladesh seems very far away, the issues, concepts, and concerns are very close to home for most.”

Undoubtedly set to stimulate an East-East versus East-West dialogue, Fabric(ated) Fractures is ‘an international show’ says Campbell Betancourt. “Western voices tend to drown out local ones—even though it was never the intention.” Looking forward, she will take this inter-Asia dialogue further West to include Africa for the 2020 Dhaka Art Summit, inspired by a specific moment in time that serves as a point of departure for the wider framework of the exhibition, an announcement that will be made in the context of the Fabric(ated) Fractures exhibition in March.

“In 1414, the King of Bengal sent a giraffe to the Emperor of China as a tribute – that is an example of a far reaching international exchange that does not include a Western counterpart,” she explains of her mission to shift curatorial discourses. “We can all learn from each other, and though we can’t fix history, we can chart a new path.”

Fabric(ated) Fractures was a collaboration between the Samdani Art Foundation and Alserkal at Concrete, Dubai, and ran from 9-30 March 2019.
Image credits: Hitman Gurung, from the series This is My Home, My Land and My Country, 2015 | Reetu Sattar, Harano Sur (Lost Tune), 2017-2018.
culture
Spoons Out of Water
What is sacred to the dining table is reduced to its form and colour in this photo series by Sondos Azzam
culture
Fruit Scans
A photo series that challenges our perception of food by distorting the familiar
expression
Precarious Existence
The Magnum Foundation commissioned these images of Dubai residents hit hardest by the pandemic
culture
Roaming
How our urban environment shapes nature and our individual activities within these spaces
expression
Abandoned: When a Crisis Allows Nature Back In
Series of photographs documenting the impacts of continual human manipulation of the UAE's natural landscapes
opinion
What is the role of the artist in society?
In the context of shifting definitions surrounding the role that the artist plays in nation building and place-making, Stephen Hobbs (Director of Johannesburg’s The Trinity Session) and Laila Binbrek (Coordinating Director of the National Pavilion UAE la Biennale di Venezia) unpack insights that reflect on current trends and possible futures.
culture
Hassan Hajjaj: Carte Blanche
Fari Bradley in conversation with Hassan Hajjaj prior to his show at Paris’s Maison Européenne de la Photographie
culture
Soothing the Soothsayers
A conversation with arts writer Kevin Jones, curator of the Foretold Now summer programme
culture
Humanity as Refuge I
A conversation with Fabric(ated) Fractures curator Diana Campbell Betancourt and participating artists
culture
Humanity as Refuge II
A conversation with Fabric(ated) Fractures curator Diana Campbell Betancourt and participating artists
culture
A Force To Reckon With: Manal Aldowayan
A conversation with one of Saudi Arabia's most significant artists about her evolving methodologies, the shifting significance of her work, and the thought behind her practice
culture
Alserkal Avenue | The First Decade (Part 2)
A conversation with the creative visionaries and cultural entrepreneurs who have partnered with Alserkal Avenue over the past decade.
culture
Alserkal Avenue | The First Decade (Part 1)
A conversation with the creative visionaries and cultural entrepreneurs who have partnered with Alserkal Avenue over the past decade.
culture
Turning The Spotlight On UAE-Based Emerging Artists
A conversation with UAE Unlimited Executive Director Shobha Shamdsani
culture
Architecture Meets Nature: While We Wait
A conversation with award-winning designers Yousef and Elias Anastas about their latest installation piece, While We Wait.
culture
Echo Holdings x Synthanatos
This edition of Echo Holdings, artist Isaac Sullivan’s context-shifting series of hybrid live sets and collaborative lecture performances, features vocals by independent researcher Dana Dawud and takes up a machinic sense of the psychoanalytic death drive. Here, an uncanny ambiguity between recorded and live speech, and a seemingly infinite field of images within images, produces an ecstatic blurring of presence and asynchrony as we negotiate a sonic palette alternately sparkling and ragged.
culture
Curriculum II
The follow-up to 2020's Introductory Curriculum for Reparations revealed
culture
Dayanita Singh in Conversation
Dayanita Singh discusses her body of work with curator Nada Raza
culture
Noria: Circulation Of People In Systems
Investigating how societies influence and mould us through systems of social politics, particularly in South Korea
culture
When the Band Comes Marching In
A work by Block Universe, supported by Alserkal, questions the power structures of the Venice Biennale
culture
Adapt to Survive: Notes from the Future
Curator Dr. Cliff Lauson and artist Youmna Chlala discuss the need of adaptation for survival
culture
"Under": A Video Documentation
Under is Hale Tenger’s first major public work in Dubai commissioned by Alserkal, guest curated by Mari Spirito of Protocinema
culture
While We Wait
An immersive installation by Bethlehem-based architects about the cultural claim over nature in Palestine
culture
Safina Radio Project: Venice
From 6-8 May 2015, Alserkal created an itinerant space on the waterways of Venice
culture
Concrete Closed Sessions: Inam & Friends
A musical gathering around Qawwali music.
expression
A Letter
Micro-fiction by Amrita Shergar to inaugurate alserkal.online's new showcase for creative writing
opinion
Why Institutions Now
What contemporary arts institutions might become in the future
opinion
Will the Fashion Industry Ever Truly Be Sustainable?
Founder of clothing brand One and Four speaks about sustainable practices
culture
The Overseas Filipino Artist
Fresh insights on Filipino artists in Dubai through the lens of Sa Tahanan Collective founder
culture
An Incomplete History of UAE Cinemas, Part 1
In Part 1, Dubai-based writer Mezaina examines independent cinemas pre-multiplex days
expression
Drone Go Chasing Waterfalls
Thoughts on Stephanie Comilang’s film Lumapit Sa Akin, Paraiso (Come to Me, Paradise)
culture
How Will We Return?
Dialogues between cultural practitioners & scholars from the Alserkal Arts Foundation network
culture
Mohamed Melehi And The Casablanca Art School Archives
Works by major figure in postcolonial Moroccan art showcased at Concrete
expression
An Introductory Curriculum for Reparations
An informational response by our community on the Black Lives Matter Movement
culture
METASITU in conversation with Ghada Yaiche
Artist collective in discussion with an architect on urban and ruin
culture
Cape Town: A New Capital for Art
The eighth edition of Investec Cape Town Art Fair took place in February against an uneasy socio-economic backdrop — concluding in solid sales, and a newfound zeal for multiculturalism.
opinion
The Lighthouse Podcast x Vilma Jurkute
Alserkal's Executive Director Vilma Jurkute sat down with Hashem Montasser, creator of The Lighthouse Podcast, to share her experience in developing Alserkal Avenue as the leading arts & culture district in the region.
culture
Connecting Cultures Through Contemporary Art
Sheikha Hoor Al Qasimi shares her thoughts on curating the second edition of the Lahore Biennale
culture
One-on-One with Nabila Abdel Nabi
A conversation with Nabila Abdel Nabi, Tate Modern's first MENA curator
culture
The Making of a Ruin
A public art commission by the artist collective METASITU welcomed visitors to a post-apocalyptic ruin
culture
Mystical Warriors
The works in Reza Derakshani’s latest show at Leila Heller Gallery reveal the mystical connections between the artist’s time in Russia, and the forgotten tales and symbolism of his Iranian heritage
culture
Is This Tomorrow?
Whitechapel Gallery curator Lydia Yee explores the works of five pairings of artists and architects
culture
Slippery Modernism
A review of Building Bauhaus, Jean-Paul Najar Foundation’s tribute to the German art school’s centenary – with a regional twist.
culture
Is This Tomorrow? Art vs Architecture
Architecture and arts writers experience the show from their own perspectives
culture
Living Under The Net
Hale Tenger's 'Under' asks us what beliefs we accept without question and what our potential could be without such self-imposed restrictions.
style
At the Confluence of Art and Industry
Architect, designer, and writer Edwin Heathcote reflects on Concrete’s significance
culture
Connecting Syria to the World
Director Shireen Atassi expands on Atassi Foundation efforts
culture
Poetry In Motion
Nujoom Al Ghanem fuses poetry and filmmaking for 'Passages', a reflection on the universal experience of displacement and alienation. The Emirati poet and director speaks to Melissa Gronlund about her solo presentation for the National Pavilion UAE at the 58th Venice Biennale
culture
Collaborative Co-existence
A six-week series screenings, workshops, performances, and exhibitions around the theme of maintenance
culture
An Artistic Meditation
On Mohamed Ahmed Ibrahim’s practice, about the mind, its subconscious and space.
culture
Fabric(ated) Fractures
A collaboration with Samdani Art Foundation, challenging ideas of nation, state, and territory
culture
The Africa Connection
As the global art world shines a light on Africa, Rebecca Anne Proctor writes on the growing dialogue between the Middle East and Africa
culture
The Fabric of Fractures
Exploring ‘sensitive spaces' that challenge ideas of nation, state, and territory
culture
Chaos, Love, and Enigmas
Malaysian artist Hasanul Isyraf Idris tackles his homeland’s multiculturalism through densely populated compositions that engage episodic memory, manifested by mythological through to Sci-Fi imagery
culture
The First Collectors
The role of the artist in relation to collecting is reconsidered
culture
A Modern History
Nancy Lorenz’s exhibition 'Silver Moon' at Leila Heller Gallery presents a complex craft-meets-contemporary body of work that references Japanese tradition and Abstract Expressionism
culture
Hydrogen Helium
A sound installation first realised in a residency at Alserkal Arts Foundation
culture
Q&A: Hale Tenger And Mari Spirito
'Under' is Hale Tenger's first major commission in almost a decade, on view at The Yard in 2018
culture
Re-Examining The Role Of The Museum In Society
The 2017 CiMAM Annual Conference brought together museum professionals from around the world to re-evaluate the public functions of museums.