Cosmic relationalism in the sculptures of Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury

The Bangladeshi artist speaks about his trans-disciplinary practice while discussing the works The Place Where the Sun Has Another Name and Love Letter for the Last Sun.

by Utkarsh Published on : Aug 03, 2020

What lay before us was the furthest corner of the basement, which at the moment lay in pitch darkness except for a sliver of light that escaped through the stairs that led down from the foyer of the under-construction building. This was where the Fellows exhibition was to take place as part of the 10th edition of Chobi Mela, the bi-annual international photo-festival that was set to commence within a month’s time in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury, who was amongst the 13 fellows who had been commissioned to produce site-specific responses under the broad thematic of Place, had chosen this corner of the basement as the site to initiate a dialogue that would develop into a series of relational works over the course of a year. But for the moment, Chowdhury began this process depending upon his intuition and an uncanny assemblage of everyday objects.

The Place Where the Sun Has Another Name at Chobi Mela [X], International Festival of Photography 2019, Dhaka, Bangladesh | The Place Where The Sun Has Another Name | Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury| STIRworld
The Place Where the Sun has Another Name at Chobi Mela (X), International Festival of Photography 2019, Dhaka, Bangladesh Image Credit: Joe Paul Cyriac, Chobi Mela [X] and the artist

The Place Where the Sun Has Another Name (2019), as the artist explains, is created with everyday mundane objects that are set in motion to explore the possibility of play. The work, in its expansive scale, sets stage for a display of rhizomatic associations that establish the interconnectedness of forces between the human and non-human, the living and non-living, to establish “an ecology of cosmic connections among them”. The work features a platform ladder at the center of the composition, with wooden planks that lie across the steps adorning a myriad of objects that range from lights of varying intensities reflected and refracted by different surfaces, to a common recurrence of the sphere in the form of globes, bowls and a pink Swiss ball covered in tin-foil. The ladder form is further supplemented by TV units, LCD screens, projections, convex reflectors and kinetic sculptures to present a literal relational balance in which all these elements co-exist.

The Place Where the Sun Has Another Name at Chobi Mela [X], International Festival of Photography 2019, Dhaka, Bangladesh | The Place Where The Sun Has Another Name | Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury| STIRworld
The Place Where the Sun Has Another Name at Chobi Mela (X) - a place created through mundane activities, Dhaka, Bangladesh Image Credit: Joe Paul Cyriac, Chobi Mela [X] and the artist

Chowdhury emphasises on his use of universal materials to create what he terms a ‘cosmic relation’, explaining, “I use every day mundane objects, which are not spatialised artistic materials, but are used by everybody around the world. These objects can be found discarded in the street or in the waste; tools that are used in everyday requirements, and so on. In the given space they may collaborate or cooperate with each other or disperse. Within materials, there are no hierarchies and everything resides in harmony, whether it is vibration, recombination, or decomposition. This is a cosmic universal sense. I believe that each person has a mysterious cosmic relationship with objects or materials, for example, another person will not choose the same objects that I have chosen for my work”.

Love Letter to the Last Sun (01) at Seismic Movements, Dhaka Art Summit 2020, Dhaka, Bangladesh | Love Letter to the Last Sun | Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury| STIRworld
Love Letter to the Last Sun (01) at Seismic Movements, Dhaka Art Summit 2020, Dhaka, Bangladesh Image Credit: Randhir Singh, DAS 2020, Samdani Art Foundation and the artist

A printmaker by training, Chowdhury professes how he was never interested in limiting himself to a specific medium, and even during his study at the Faculty of Fine Arts, University of Dhaka, his inclinations lay towards film, video and sculpture, besides printmaking. “I continued my way of developing a language by experimenting with different media because I am more fascinated with physicality, rather than surface”. His artistic practice today spans a diverse range of media, as his process remains fluid and almost always ongoing. “My artistic decision is always in flux - incorporated in everyday life. The energy of the space influences my work process in making decisions in many different ways. I facilitate my projects to be autonomous and sustainable”. 

Love Letter to the Last Sun (02) at Seismic Movements, Dhaka Art Summit 2020, Dhaka, Bangladesh | Love Letter to the Last Sun | Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury| STIRworld
Love Letter to the Last Sun (02) at Seismic Movements, Dhaka Art Summit 2020, Dhaka, Bangladesh Image Credit: Randhir Singh, DAS 2020, Samdani Art Foundation and the artist

In December 2019, after exhibiting The Place Where the Sun Has Another Name at the Look Stranger exhibition at Serendipity Arts Festival in Goa, India, Chowdhury began working on the project that would later be titled, Love Letters to the Last Sun,for the then upcoming Dhaka Art Summit 2020. “Within a span of few months, my thoughts and mind gradually changed. In The Place Where the Sun Has Another Name, I was mostly thinking of cosmic relationships in human and non-human existence. However, a big shift was made when starting with Love Letters to the Last Sun, where I was mostly thinking about the ecology and climate change; the decay of planets. Eventually, the two works come as a series, as the same body of work installed in two different places in two different countries. This process of using the same materials helps me start gradually in a new time, space, and situation, so that the body of work becomes a new form and energy. Each time there are new branches that rise from the main body. I think this is how new experimental territories open up”.

Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury | Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury| STIRworld
Mizanur Rahman Chowdhury Image Credit: Courtesy of the artist

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