‘Faydabad To-Let’ in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Image courtesy: Ke ba kahara
NOW ON was conceived as a call that welcomed ideas, thoughts and experiments that responded to the current crisis and its impact on the work of promoting arts and international arts exchange. Of the 100+ applications received, eight received the Now On grant. The Now On series of interviews presents the recipients of the Now On grant and their projects.
19 December 2020
Uttara, Dhaka, Bangladesh
In this interview, we speak to Ke ba kahara collective* about their project Curatorial Collaboration as Method, which received the Now On grant.
1. Could you introduce Ke ba kahara in a few lines.
Ke ba kahara (কে বা কাহারা ), which translates to ’person or persons unknown’, is a diverse and globally distributed collective that formed in Bangladesh in 2018. Informed and shaped by the individual disciplines of the members — filmmaking, print, architecture, anthropology, photography — the group coalesced from a long-term collective practice of reading, discussion, and curatorial inquiry that centres on Bangladesh’s past, present, and possible futures.
The group is a self-organised curatorial collective and the members collaborate as equals. We create clarity and momentum for our collective practice by establishing and pursuing research streams. Research topics are generated from a combination of the contemporary context of Bangladesh – including environmental concerns — and as an emergent product from our collective skills, educational disciplines and research interests. We engage with contemporary and modern arts practices in Bangladesh through the lens of these specific streams of research, which we pursue collectively.
2. What is Curatorial Collaboration as Method?
To answer, may we use a quote from inspirational curator and author Maria Lind? In describing the conceptualisations of “connective aesthetics”, “new genre public art and “dialogical art”, in the 2009 essay “Complications; On Collaboration, Agency and Contemporary Art,” Lind makes an observation that Ke ba kahara has found deeply moving, “It is a working model based on relations between people and on social creativity rather than on self-expression, and it is characterized by cooperation. It is community-based, often relating to marginalized groups; it is socially engaged, interactive and aimed at another, less anonymous public than that of art institutions. It is about creative participation in a process.”
3. What inspired you to apply to the Now On grant?
At the time at which the Now On grant was announced by Pro Helvetia New Delhi, early this summer, the global community was in a different stage of the relationship with the novel virus Covid-19. Ke ba kahara had fallen into a kind of holding pattern, as had most of the country, the region and communities across the globe. The openness and thoughtfulness of the with which the Now On grant was framed immediately spoke to us. As did the realisation that although Pro Helvetia New Delhi was equally affected by the global pandemic, far from hibernating, or reconfiguring everything to fit digital formats, Pro Helvetia was reaching out to encourage the creative community to remain active and “respond to the current crisis and how it impacts our core work of promoting arts and international arts exchange”.
4. How does Curatorial Collaboration as Method promote artistic work despite the pandemic?
The Now On grant is giving us the opportunity to initiate two initiatives that we are really excited about.
The first is a creative biannual publication series committed to documenting unique practices of collaboration among artists and cultural groups. We are preparing a soft-launch for the series in December this year with an e-issue. In 2021, we will move forward to producing a print issue every six months. The second initiative is a programme of exhibitions, presentations and experiences of artists’ work that are planned and prepared in spaces and locations that are not normally dedicated to showing art. The first exhibition in what we hope will be a long and varied programme will be on view in Dhaka on December 19th.
5. What are the next steps for your project?
For the next one month, we are entirely focussed on preparing ‘Issue 0’ of the new publication series and in finalising the work for the exhibition. As soon as these two initiatives kick off, so to speak, we will have a great deal of work already waiting for us for the next stages of both programmes. We’re anticipating that 2021 will be a very full year for us!
Follow Ke ba kahara on instagram @Ke_Ba_Kahara.
*Ke ba kahara choose to be referred to as a collective rather than by their individual names.