Online-Talk: Refiguring archives

11.30.2022 00:00

Shahidul Alam, Tanzim Wahab, and Munem Wasif, the three curators of the Biennale für aktuelle Fotografie 2024, discussed various strategies around archives, their (de)activations, and their visions of the future with yasmine eid-sabbagh, a member of the Arab Image Foundation, and NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati, co-founder and Artistic Director of the three platforms, Nepal Picture Library and Photo Kathmandu. The talk, entitled Refiguring archives, took place on 8 December.

The archive in art settings has never been a neutral space, but exhibitions of archival work are often seen as a universal narrative form. How do we look beyond the institutionalized apparatus of archiving and revisit social structures that are critical of canonised representation? Some authors, curators or archivists, for example, see their roles not as mediators of archives, but sometimes prefer nondisclosure.

About the speakers:

left: From "Vies possibles et imaginaires" (Editions Photosynthèses, Arles, 2012), a collaboration with Rozenn Quéré. Courtesy yasmine eid-sabbagh and Rozenn Quéré; in the middle: Tanzim Wahab, Shahidul Alam and Munem Wasif (from left to right) | Photo: © Lys Y. Seng; right: NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati | Photo: © Sagar Chhetri

In her practice yasmine eid-sabbagh explores potentials of human agency by engaging in experimental, collective work processes. These include (counter-)archiving practices such as the negotiation around a potential digital archive (re)assembled in collaboration with inhabitants of Burj al-Shamali, a Palestinian refugee camp near Tyr, Lebanon, and radical pedagogical projects such as Ses Milanes-créixer a la natura, a self-organized forest kindergarten in Bunyola, Spain, using nature as its main infrastructure. Photography often acts as a medium for her to communally investigate notions of collectivity, power, and endurance; for example, in her engagement as a member of the Arab Image Foundation, a practitioner-led archival institution, and as a focus in her PhD in Art Theory and Cultural Studies from the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna (2018).

NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati lives in Kathmandu, Nepal and works at the intersections of visual storytelling, research, pedagogy, and collective action. She is the co-founder and Artistic Director of, Nepal Picture Library and Photo Kathmandu – platforms that work towards strengthening image-worlds and actions that disrupt and resist as well as work towards repair. NayanTara has served as the Festival Director of South Asia’s premier non-fiction film festival Film Southasia from 2013-2015. She has been a mentor for the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass and chaired the 2021 World Press Photo Contest Jury. NayanTara was a 2020-2022 Jane Lombard Fellow at the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, The New School, New York.

Shahidul Alam (b. 1955) is a photojournalist, social activist, curator and writer, and holds a PhD in chemistry. His areas of interest as an activist, photographer as well as a curator are social issues, including natural disasters, human rights violations, government and military oppression in Bangladesh and the "disappearance" of political opponents. He has received several awards for his photographic work and his political commitment.

Tanzim Wahab (b. 1986) is a curator, researcher and lecturer. He is the director of Chobi Mela International Festival of Photography. He has headed several curatorial research projects and exhibitions including Breaking Ground – featuring works of the modernist forerunners of Bengal, (Dis) Place – an exhibition about displacement; looking at the possibility of a post-historical space and function as a symbolic “act of discharge” (with Hadrien Diez) and is currently co-editing Primary Documents – The Museum of Modern Arts’ (MoMA) publication series on international art. He has also been a fellow of several programs, including Art for Social Change, United States, and Art Think South Asia (ATSA), India, among others.

Munem Wasif (b. 1983) is an artist, curator and educator. His work examines the concepts of 'documents' and 'archives' and their corresponding influence on politically and geographically complex issues. He has been a co-curator of Chobi Mela since the festival’s eighth edition, and has curated three major survey shows for the festival: of legendary Bangladeshi photographer Anwar Hossain (2015), Nasir Ali Mamun (2017) and Rashid Talukder (2019). In 2020/21, Wasif was a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. His works have been shown in institutions worldwide, including the Centre Pompidou, Whitechapel Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum, Fotomuseum Winterthur and the Chobi Mela Photo Festival.

The online conversation Refiguring archives is part of the digital programme What if you decide … This is developed as part of "dive in. Programme for Digital Interactions" of the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (German Federal Cultural Foundation) with funding by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (BKM) through the NEUSTART KULTUR programme.

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