Bangladesh National Pavilion at 58th La Biennale di Venezia

Bangladesh National Pavilion at 58th La Biennale di Venezia

August 6, 2019

Today, contemporary art became more diverse than ever before. The art world is experimenting with concepts, media, and initiatives. It’s necessary for an artist to express the idea in the most communicative way. ‘May we live in interesting times’ is the theme of 58th La Biennale di Venezia for 2019, in Venice, Italy. Famously known as Venice Biennale, it is one of the major and prestigious events of contemporary art and artists. The 58th International Art Exhibition is curated by Ralph Rugoff and is open to the public from 11 May to 24 November 2019. The first Biennale in Venice opened on 30 April 1895 with more than 200 thousand visitors, a great start that catapulted the fledgling exposure among the big international events. From the 2nd Biennale, some novelties were introduced, such as the Critics Award, which stimulated articles and reviews on the Biennale Venice Art increasing its visibility and quality.

Palazzo Zenobio is the official venue of Bangladesh National Pavilion till 25th November 2019. At the biennale there are three different types of space (Arsenale, Giardini, and independent spaces). There are also few individual pavilions specially curated by the biennale assigned curator/s. A total of 91 countries have participated this year with their major contemporary artists around the globe. Among them, Algeria, Ghana, Madagascar, Malaysia, and Pakistan participated for the first time. While Bangladesh is participating for the 3rd time in such a vital platform. On 10 May 2019 Bangladesh Pavilion has officially been inaugurated and opened to guests and the media for all the biennale visitors. For the record, 2011, 2013 and 2019 are the years when Bangladesh has featured its artists at the Bangladesh Pavilion in Venice Biennale.

Though Bangladesh has a long history of organizing Asian Biennale, the country is yet to recognize and realize the crucial agenda of these sort of important biennales all over the world. Artists visit and participate biennales all over the world and realize that these platforms are not only a platform to showcase best ideas and artworks, but also to educate and learn for any country, its artists and art world. Artists must explore these platforms to participate, to engage for realizing their own potential, to identify the context of one’s culture, to create a discourse in global contemporary art movement.

Venice Biennale is also a process-driven initiative as it keeps improvising its attitude each year. Since it’s the age of possibility and exploring the new dimension, perhaps improvisation might give a purpose and vision to these platforms in the long run. Creating sustainable discourse through art is very vital and crucial in today’s world. Contemporary art does not deal with aesthetics or only visual anatomy anymore. It is hugely important to determine the context and urgency of political, social, environmental and global issues to create a new regime of a truly modern community. In the era of digital revolution, art and artists are now part of scientific innovation and sustainable global movements. Today’s contemporary art encompasses both pleasure and critical thinking. In Bangladesh, it is high time to create an environment of art that is truly global but its approach should be local. Because, creating authentic identity is complex.   As a nation, to realize the importance to participate in this kind of prestigious platforms is very crucial. To be very sharp and smart, to provoke the world to know the nation, culture, history and thus artists work to shape identity. Authorities and artists need to create a research cell, documentation hub and proper government body to build a strong system and policy to prepare the generation to participate in these kinds of global platforms of great promise, to showcase their own art and culture to establish the historical background with contemporary approach; as a powerful independent country, artists need to deal with art with extreme complexity to reflect their identity.   This year Bangladesh National Pavilion in Venice Biennale explores the theme per se ‘THIRST’, which is not only water, rather understanding ‘thirst’ in multidimensional layers from philosophical to visual aspect. The 5 esteemed artists focused on the notion of ‘thirst’ as a sense to contextualize the connection between the people, perception and culture. The theme is simple but complex in its experimental and intellectual discourse.   ‘Thirst’ is very important for any artist from any culture for that matter. It’s an urgency to feel the inner thirst to achieve the purpose which is very crucial to achieve in today’s world. Hence, participating in 58th La biennale di Venetia, Bangladesh has proved yet again that artists here are thirsty to show the world their true potential.

Based of philosophy thirst each of the five participating artists of Bangladesh pavilion illustrated their take on the theme. Nazia Andaleeb Preema, Bishwajit Gowshami, Gazi Nafis Ahmed, Ra Kajol, and Uttam Karmakar were the artists who represent years long process and recent project to unveil Bangladesh Pavilion. Viviana Vannucci (Italy) and Mokhlesur Rahman (Bangladesh) were the curators of Bangladesh Pavilion, while Mr. Liaquat Ali Lucky was appointed as the commissioner from the Ministry of Cultural Affairs, People’s Republic of Bangladesh. 

Prolific and diverse artist Nazia Andaleeb Preema (born 1974), is an influential female artist of Bangladesh, her project for the biennale includes video, painting and installation–Visibility Paradox: Image Forensics. The artist subjects herself to visualize ‘objectification’ of women. Such has evolved in different media over time with turns and twists. Her improvisations, with sense and sensibilities, portray rhetorical biases and prejudices of women by the traditional media while she captures the vile virility of the social media.  She unearths the cacophonies of surveillance society, cocooning individuals. As an influencer, Preema has made art an area of activism for the promotion of range of issues – women’s empowerment to the environment.

Bishwajit Gowshami (born 1981), an experimental and dynamic artist, represents “Traveling with Mother”, and “Ma Mati Manush Bhasha Swadesh Prokriti”, using multidimensional media. In this project, Bishwajit performed with a universal notion of life; where the innate Bengali female portrait is cast as a surface of his artwork, and characters carry different concepts of spirit. Bengali women’s portrait and Bengali writing on the face represented the artwork itself as a statue of spirituality. The movements and connection among the portraits created the visual dialogue and vivacity on the artwork. Bishwajit’s thirst of art making recalled the concepts – ‘Mother’, ‘Earth’ and ‘Human’ Repeatedly.

Artist Gazi Nafis Ahmed, currently based in Spain, showcased “Inner Face” a series of portraits of third gender communities in Bangladesh. The sensibility of approach plays an essential role in his work. In order to research this so it can be presented with integrity, Ahmed spent days in fluid conversations with his participants about their lives, in which they reflected on their inner thoughts and struggles. This process lets them ventilate and heal but it also forces the artists to confront the challenges in their lives.

Italy based Bangladeshi artist Uttam Kumar Karmakar (born 1962), represented a city born in water to the floating city par excellence, a playful dance bridging nature and culture but also a shout for attention to address the alarming present predicament of planet Earth. The brushstrokes of the artist are light, pandering to the evolution of his gestures as they caress the surface of the canvas, with few relevant objects that form the large triptych of Future Water (2019). Hence ‘Thirst’ for better environment is his urgency of the biennale work. 

Last but not the least artist Ra Kajol (born 1956), is an innovative artist, lives and works in Copenhagen. His bamboo sculpture ‘Feeder of Thirst’ is a symbolic illusion of mother’s breast, and the ‘Love’ paintings, showcased in this year’s Venice Biennale is essentially a child’s feeder which captures the theme of thirst. This sculpture is placed in a historical time – the period when Bangladesh became a free and sovereign country when society of baby milk, which is not difficult to meet if the society is spurred into action. Thirst, thus, becomes a collective concept. His process declares satire and irony, the duplicities that characterize the institutions of power. 

It’s a serious urgency to realize to become a part of global movement as well as being an artist and policy maker to be sensible to promote Bangladesh and its creative industry. We cannot think art as an alien entity when the country is thriving to mark its own identity. Let’s be really enlightened to explore the possibilities to establish our culture within and beyond with true conviction. Let’s embrace our art, culture and country.  



Nazia Andaleeb Preema

Visual Artist, Founder, Bangladesh Creative Forum

Website catalogue of La Biennale di Venezia

No Comments so far

Jump into a conversation

No Comments Yet!

You can be the one to start a conversation.

Your data will be safe!Your e-mail address will not be published. Also other data will not be shared with third person.