"The Work of Art is a Scream of Freedom"
2-15 April 2017, ArTree Nepal, Samarpan Margh, Tripureshwoar, Kathmandu
OPEN STUDIO 2017
Participant Artists : Bikash Shrestha, Hitmaan Gurung, Lavkant Chaudhary, Mekh Limbu, Sheelasha Rajbhandari, Sachin Yogol Shrestha Subas Tamang
“The Work of Art is a Scream of Freedom” was an open-studio which took inspiration from the statement by prominent artist Christo Vladimirov Javacheff. "
Nepal’s history glorifies the very rulers that laid the foundation for the unjust and inequitable society we live in today. The Maoist rebellion which started in the 90s aimed to eradicate the feudal roots of Nepali society. Ultimately, Nepal’s decade long People’s War brought an end to its monarchy in 2006. It furthermore brought to fore the struggles of indigenous, madeshi, and dalit peoples, in addition to an unprecendented participation of women in the public sphere. Despite widespread activism and attempts to transform Nepal’s political and social landscape, little progress has been achieved even after the country adopted a new constitution in 2015. Years of war, political instability, and economic torpor left much of rural Nepal bereft of any opportunities for the youth. Mass scale migrations have pushed people out of the hills and mountains into urban agglomerations. Globalization and capitalism with their incessant demand for cheap labour have furthermore pulled Nepali workers to markets in the Middle East and South-East Asia.
Hitman Gurung's ‘Labour’s Helmet,’ from the series ‘I Have to Feed Myself, My Family and My Country…’ deals with Nepali migrant laborers who leave their families and country to join transitory work forces in foreign countries. These larger economic forces have a long-lasting and often unalterable impact on the global economy as well as on individuals, communities and societies.
Mekh Limbu’s work entitled ‘Silent Portraits in Qatar and Kathmandu’captures the silent and still portraits of migrant workers in Qatar. He has juxtaposed these portraits with a time lapse video of Kathmandu, indicating his own shifts around different locations in the city. With the help of the remittance liquidity sent by migrant workers, families move to bigger and more developed towns and cities within the country in search of a better life.
Similarly, Bikash Shrestha’s ‘The Family Album,’ is a commentary on the mobility of family members and its impact within individual families. People leave their homes and relocate to different places in search of a better life. As a result, small villages and communities get deserted. Members from a single family are scattered across the globe. Only the toothless and the teething are left behind, as a scant assemblage of the family.
Subas Tamang’s, ‘I Want To Die In My Own House,’ is an autobiographical commentary that also represents the dreams of thousands of dislocated families in Nepal. When people move, they usually rent a room, make a whole lot of compromises, and struggle for basic survival. A permanent address is an important marker of a person’s identity in our culture and symbolizes wealth and prosperity. The wish for a house may come true for some but for most fortune remains uncertain. The portraits of Tamang’s parents are carved on slate, referencing the vernacular materials used for constructing the roofs houses in rural Nepal.
Sheelasha’s art work ‘Agony of The New Bed’ underscores the familiar yet overlooked reality of gender discrimination within the constructs of marriage. In Nepal’s Hindu arranged marriages, girls and women are treated as chattel, their ownership transferred from their father to their husband. Brides are socially compelled to adopt their husband’s identity and home; in this new space, they are at risk of domestic and sexual violence. Unfortunately, the agency of girls and women is stifled to such a degree that many are left helpless, some are even muzzled in cases of marital rape. And this silence and trauma percolates from generation to generation.
Lavkant Chaudhary’s ‘Ostracism’ explores the identity of the Tharu peoples and the larger struggle of indigenous peoples to attain equality. His work annotates the state-sponsored violence inflicted upon the Tharu people in the aftermath of protests organized against the promulgation of the constitution of Nepal in 2015. The bullets suspended above various grains represent how the state suppresses the very livelihood of the Tharu peoples.
Sachin Yogol Shrestha’s “Chasma Maguwa is a Selfie or Selfish?” addresses the choice and exposure of oneself on the media, especially social media. Sachin borrowed spectacles and glasses from his relatives and friends and then took selfies at different times, during different events and places, ultimately in search of thread that connected the different shots. This photography-based work represents the irony of how people who are physically confined to certain boundaries feel connected through cyber culture.