SYDNEY. 31 AUGUST – 14 OCTOBER 2018.
Taking in geographies shaped by sudden shifts of historical change wrought by complex interventions and their subsequent social impact in the greater Asia region, Temporary Certainty presents works by artists that are indelibly marked by their emergence within conditions of uneasy reconciliation. With a focus on Bengal, Kurdistan and the Kimberley region of Western Australia, this exhibition explores how artists approach the question of reconfiguring regional cultural adaptation in contemporary forms that embody the consequences of broader geopolitical expediencies.
4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art has commissioned new works from Australian artists Rushdi Anwar and Alana Hunt that have been created especially for Temporary Certainty. Over 2016—2017, Anwar made several trips to Kurdistan and Iraq where, as a former refugee from the war-torn region seeking to help rebuild his homeland, he spent time working with displaced children at several refugee camps by running art classes and other activities. It was during one of this trips that Anwar also experienced the dangers faced by Kurdish fighters near the front lines in their battle against ISIL. His experience of entering a church near the Bashiqa-Mosul region of Northern Iraq, that had been damaged and desecrated by its use as a temporary munitions store by ISIL only days prior, has prompted Anwar to utilise his photographic documentation of the site in a work that explores unsettling similarities between the destruction, transience, and renewal faced by displaced and uprooted communities globally and the built environments they are forced to leave. This is accompanied by a selection of recent works by the artist that include the video and sound installation Facing Living: The Past in the Present (2015), a meditation on the power (and its abuse) of images employed by the state in its propagation of the cult of personality and social conditioning.
Alana Hunt takes as her focus Lake Argyle, located near the artist’s home in the East Kimberley town of Kununurra, that is an immense human-engineered reservoir of freshwater whose capacity is more than eighteen times the volume of Sydney Harbour. Commonly referred to as ‘the jewel of the Kimberley’ in Western Australian tourism campaigns, Lake Argyle was created in 1971 (and filled by 1974) following multiple stages of the damming of the Ord River over previous decades for the purpose of irrigating land centred around Kununurra for agricultural production. The damming of the Ord, appearing only a few years after the introduction of equal wages for Aboriginal pastoral workers in the Kimberley saw mass evictions of workers from stations that could no longer exploit massive wage subsidies in the employment of Aboriginal labour, immeasurably altered the surrounding natural and social landscape. Lake Argyle drowned places of cultural significance and altered the environmental ecologies of country belonging to Miriwoong, Gija and Malgnin people. In her work, Hunt takes the monumental aspect of the dam wall—located in Miriwong country and so immediately symbolic of environmental, technological and economic intervention of white Australia—as a point of departure for an investigation of the convergence of historical bureaucratic management of natural resources driven by colonial dreams of development that have been shaped by faith in the idea of permanence confronted by an underlying and imminent sense of fragility.
Temporary Certainty showcases new work by Sarker Protick, the first time the Bangladeshi artist has exhibited in Australia. Presented at 4A is a selection of photographs and video from Exodus (2015–ongoing), a body of work that explores decaying buildings and surrounding lands of the feudal estates in East Bengal that were previously owned by Hindu jamindars, or landlords. Following the Liberation War of 1971 that abruptly established the newly independent nation of Bangladesh, huge migrations took place across Bengal. This saw many wealthy Hindu landowners abandoned their estates for India in fear of similar reprisals that had erupted following the Partition of India in 1947. At the same time, a series of controversial laws dating from 1948, culminating in the Vested Property Act of 1974, allowed the confiscation of property by Bangladeshi authorities from groups declared ‘enemies of the state’. Rendering these landscapes with an eye sensitive to subtle gradations of forms and textures—simultaneously appearing in sharp detail yet obscured by fog and mist—Exodus is at once a document of the expediencies of decolonisation and their mark upon the landscapes and a haunting meditation on the universal contingencies of time.
Grappling with tensions between certainty and doubt, permanence and all that is ephemeral, Temporary Certainty contemplates the value of what can be apprehended—much less held onto—with any guarantee in a present age lurching towards ever greater polarisations.
Temporary Certainty is produced by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art. The presentation of Sarker Protick’s Exodus has been supported by The Esplanade, Singapore.
Rushdi Anwar (b. Halabja, Kurdistan) is a Melbourne-based artist who works across installation, sculpture, painting, photo-painting and video. His practice explores socio-political issues of Kurdistan, Iraq and the Middle East through an investigation of form, material vocabulary and processes of making. Anwar was educated in Kurdistan and Australia, studying at the Institute of Kirkuk- Kurdistan and Enmore Design Centre/Sydney Institute. He holds a Master of Fine Art (2010) and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Fine Art (2016) from the RMIT University, Melbourne. He has held numerous solo and group exhibitions in Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Finland, France, Japan, Kurdistan, Norway, Switzerland, Thailand, and United Arab Emirates. His works are held in the collections of the Australian War Memorial, the Kurdistan Regional Government, and in private collections. Anwar has curated exhibitions in Kurdistan (2010), Thailand (2012, 2015), and Australia (2013). Following several artist-in-residence programs in Thailand, he is co-founder and co-coordinator of Australian Thai Artist Interchange, Melbourne, an organisation founded in 2012 to enhance cross-cultural exchange, awareness and appreciation of art and culture between Thais and Australians.
Alana Hunt (b. 1984, Sydney) makes contemporary art, writes and produces culture through a variety of media across public, gallery and online spaces. She lives on Miriwoong country in the north-west of Australia and has a long-standing engagement with South Asia. The politics of nation making and the colonial past and present of Australia and South Asia are central to her practice. Her work is invested in the capacity of art and ideas to shape the social space between people and the public sphere. Since 2009, Alana has orchestrated participatory art and publishing projects that have activated different media forms in the public sphere to shed light on Kashmir. Paper txt msgs from Kashmir (2009-2011) prompted media in India and Pakistan to speak about a state wide mobile phone ban they had previously been silent on. This work won the Fauvette Laureiro Artists Scholarship. In 2016, the seven-year participatory memorial Cups of nun chai circulated as a newspaper serial in Kashmir, reaching thousands of people on a weekly basis during a period of civilian uprising and state oppression. This work won the 2017 Incinerator Art Award. Her essay, A mere drop in the sea of what is, published by 4A Papers, explored the art circulating on the ‘streets of social media’ in Kashmir and made it into the Hansard Report of the Australian Parliament. In 2018, Alana will undertake a residency in Sulawesi with Rumata Art Space & the Makassar International Writers’ Festival and present Cups of nun chai at Tufts University Art Gallery, Massachusetts, and a series of artists presentations at Tufts, Brown, and Parsons universities. Her work is held in both public and private collections including Artbank and Macquarie Group Collection.
Sarker Protick (b. 1986, Bangladesh) is a Dhaka-based artist whose work explores the possibilities of time, light and sound. His portraits, landscapes and photographic series engage philosophically with the specificities of personal and national histories. Sarker’s approach across various mediums incorporates detailed observations and subtle gestures as a means of creating personal spaces, often minimal and atmospheric. He was named in British Journal of Photography’s annual ‘Ones to Watch’ and Photo District New’s (PDN) 30 emerging photographers of the year. Sarker is the recipient of Joop Swart Masterclass, World Press Photo award, and Australian Photobook of the Year grand prize. His work has been shown in museums, galleries and photo festivals internationally, including Art Dubai, Paris Photo, Singapore Art Week, Dhaka Art Summit, Latvian Contemporary Museum of Photography, Chobi Mela International Photography Festival and Noor der licht. Sarker is a faculty member at Pathshala–South Asian Media Institute, Dhaka, and currently represented by East Wing Gallery, Dubai.