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Hito Steyerl: How To Build a Sustainable Art World Ocula Conversation Hito Steyerl: How To Build a Sustainable Art World

'A Picture of War is Not War', we read in Hito Steyerl's iconic film November (2004), an essayistic Super 8 film tackling the definition of terrorism constructed around the figure of the artist's best friend Andrea Wolf, who was killed as a terrorist in 1998 in Eastern Anatolia after she joined the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party). Mixing documentary...

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Aichi to Okayama: Art in Japan Looks to the Future Ocula Report Aichi to Okayama: Art in Japan Looks to the Future 11 Oct 2019 : Stephanie Bailey for Ocula

There has been a flurry of triennial and biennial art activity in Japan this year. The Aichi Triennale opened in Nagoya this August, sparking a national debate about the shutting down of a display of formerly censored works—the result of public backlash against a burnt image of Emperor Hirohito and a statue commemorating the women forced into...

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Hans Hartung and Art Informel: Exhibition Walkthrough Ocula Insight | Video
Sponsored Content | Mazzoleni Gallery
Hans Hartung and Art Informel: Exhibition Walkthrough 15 October 2019

Hans Hartung and Art Informel at Mazzoleni London (1 October 2019-18 January 2020) presents key works by the French-German painter while highlighting his connection with artists active in Paris during the 50s and 60s. In this video, writer and historian Alan Montgomery discusses Hartung's practice and its legacy.Born in Leipzig in 1904, Hans...

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Bani Abidi

b. 1971, Pakistan

Bani Abidi was born in Karachi, Pakistan, in 1971. She studied painting and printmaking, earning a BFA from the National College of Arts, Lahore, Pakistan, in 1994. She later attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, earning an MFA in 1999. She completed residencies with the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine (2000), Fukuoka Art Exchange Program, Japan (2005), and DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program (2011–12). Her early engagement with video, beginning at the Art Institute, led to the incorporation of performance and photography into her work. These mediums have provided Abidi with potent, sometimes subversive means to address problems of nationalism—specifically those surrounding the Indian-Pakistani conflict and the violent legacy of the 1947 partition dividing the two countries—and their uneven representation in the mass media. She is particularly interested in how these issues affect everyday life and individual experience.

One of Abidi’s earliest videos, Mangoes (1999), reveals her barbed sense of humor. Two women—one Indian, one Pakistani, both played by the artist—eat mangoes and reminisce about their childhoods. Soon, however, their amiable chatter escalates into competitive boasting about the fruit grown in their respective homelands, which they reference from memory as expatriates. The artist uses a similar tactic in the two-channel video The News (2001). Here, a Pakistani and an Indian newscaster, again both performed by Abidi, issue divergent reports of the same event, based on a familiar joke. In addition to video, Abidi also works with photography, digital imaging, and installation. For Karachi—Series 1 (2009), she photographed non-Muslim Pakistanis in the street at dusk during the holy month of Ramadan, when the metropolis is quiet as Muslims sit down to break their fast. Abidi renders visible the Hindu and Christian minorities, which together constitute less than five per cent of the population, acknowledging that the city is their home too by inviting them to carry out mundane domestic activities—reading a newspaper, ironing, arranging flowers—in public space. These are ambivalent portraits, each labeled with the subject’s name, time, and date, as if they were documents of surveillance. The figures are shot from behind at a wide angle, the light of the setting sun heightening the oddity of their interpolation into the streetscape—as does the images’ lightbox presentation. But while politics and cultural critique pervade Abidi’s oeuvre, aesthetics remain her primary concern; these works may act as catalysts, but the responsibility for real change ultimately resides with the viewer.

Solo exhibitions of Abidi’s work have been presented at V. M. Art Gallery, Karachi (2006 and 2010); Oberwelt, Stuttgart (2006); Gallery TPW, Toronto (2007); Gallery SKE, Bangalore (2008); Green Cardamom, London (2008 and 2010); Project 88, Mumbai (2010); Baltic Center for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, United Kingdom (2011); and Experimenter, Kolkata (2012–13). Important group exhibitions include: Fukuoka Asian Art Triennial (2005); Thermocline of Art: New Asian Waves, ZKM Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe (2007); Annual Report: A Year in Exhibitions, Gwangju Biennial, South Korea (2008); Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan, Asia Society, New York (2009); The Spectacle of the Everyday, Lyon Biennial, France (2009); Where Three Dreams Cross: 150 Years of Photography from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, and Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland (2010); The Global Contemporary: Art Worlds After 1989, ZKM Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe (2011); Making Normative Orders: Demonstrations of Power, Doubt and Protest, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt (2012); and Documenta 13 (2012). Abidi lives and works between Karachi and New Delhi.

Source: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.

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Featured Artworks

Searching for Stars Amongst the Crescents by Bani Abidi contemporary artwork
Bani AbidiSearching for Stars Amongst the Crescents, 2015 3 Channel Video (for Plasma TV screens)
Experimenter
Memorial to Lost Words by Bani Abidi contemporary artwork
Bani AbidiMemorial to Lost Words, 2017–2018 Sound and sculptural installation, 8 channel audio, 25 marble slabs with engraved text, installation dimensions variable
Experimenter

Current Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Group Show, Searching for Stars Amongst the Crescents at Experimenter, Kolkata
Open Now
23 August–25 October 2019 Group Show Searching for Stars Amongst the Crescents Experimenter, Ballygunge Place

Represented By

In Ocula Magazine

Bani Abidi: ‘What you see in my films is what I know’ Ocula Conversation Bani Abidi: ‘What you see in my films is what I know’

A group of voices accompanies me in the exhibition. They are singing words I cannot comprehend, yet the warm tunes are familiar: folk songs, love songs, songs of longing. There are letters, too. They speak of the quotidian details of a soldier's life: the hardness of the war, sending money to the family, and longing for familiar landscapes, food,...

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In Related Press

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Bani Abidi: The Last Laugh Related Press Bani Abidi: The Last Laugh Open : 9 September 2019

INCIDENTALLY, BARELY a week before I travelled from a town in Northern Italy to Berlin to attend the opening of Bani Abidi's They Died Laughing at Gropius Bau, my father-in-law brought home a mango. Perhaps he remembered me musing about how I had missed the season since I'd chosen to spend the summer in Südtirol. It was a large mango. I assumed we...

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“They Died Laughing”: Bani Abidi at Gropius Bau, Berlin Related Press “They Died Laughing”: Bani Abidi at Gropius Bau, Berlin Mousse Magazine : 30 August 2019

This conversation with Pakistani Berlin-based artist and filmmaker Bani Abidi revolves around some of the core features of her substantial solo exhibition at Martin Gropius Bau in Berlin, curated by Natasha Ginwala and spanning two decades of her practice.ANTONIA ALAMPI: I'd like to start by looking into the use of humor in your work—and at...

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At Berlin’s Gropius Bau, A Biting Survey of Pakistani Artist Bani Abidi Related Press At Berlin’s Gropius Bau, A Biting Survey of Pakistani Artist Bani Abidi Frieze : 15 August 2019

The video and print-based works in Pakistani artist Bani Abidi's exhibition 'They Died Laughing' at Berlin's Gropius Bau draw us into the side-wings of the nation state: a sculptor's studio in Uttar Pradesh, India, where public Gandhi statues are churned out, or the viscous flow of everyday bureaucracy.

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Berlin: Bani Abidi’s stirring works make a mark at Berlin’s Gropius Bau Museum Related Press Berlin: Bani Abidi’s stirring works make a mark at Berlin’s Gropius Bau Museum Architectural Digest : 9 August 2019

Bani Abidi is an artist whose work is challenging to categorise. Part stylised documentary, part performance art and part fiction, her films often feature non-actors and grapple with questions of identity, politics and the culture of control. The most visceral theme, however, is humour—Abidi's acknowledgement of the absurd, and appreciation...

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