Mundane is a combination of texts, found images and tableau photographs dealing with recent social violence of Bangladesh. The work developed as protest – a protest against our desensitized memories to violence.
I was born and raised in Bangladesh and my country is passing through a difficult time with extortion on freedom of expression and sovereignty. The threat of murder, rape, extra-judicial killing, ethnic tortures and child abuse are taking place almost every day. I am also losing my friends, neighbours and colleagues who played crucial roles on cultural and political movements, blogging and activism, and feminist movements. My friend Xulhaz, a LGBT activist, was hacked to death inside his own house where we had eaten dinner only few months previously. These continual violent events are becoming mundane in our daily life, causing ennui when published in newspapers or social media.
My photographic series is a testament of those violent moments. Taken in a space slightly before or after the moment, I attempt to show how body and mind might react to such moments.
The series consists of three parts. First many of my photos are taken inside the same room, as these real events were connected to a common place and its morphology. Secondly, I tried to transform real newspaper photos and texts to an ambiguous poetry on such violence, to protest against the mundanity of everyday news. The original texts are edited and aligned like social-media’s news-subtitles to borrow the mainstream language and convert them to a gonzo- report. Finally, I have photographed in places where heinous acts have occurred
Mundane is an attempt to pay attention to everyday social violence, and to remember the individuality and sovereignty of each victim. It is also an inquiry of our psyche when it grasps a moment of violence.
A body occupies space, but how freely it can move within gravity? A trained gesture makes a body a social being, but often not in a lucid form. There is a conscious act of intimacy, dependency, ignorance or enmity, but some acts lose control and expose unrecognizable gestures. Prithi invited people from diverse backgrounds into her studio and allowed them to act upon intimacy or separation. There are real and unreal moments. She preferred a mix of both.
Dhaka dwellers often hide their personal moments from the public, but her studio acted as a parallel reality where two bodies are open to interact. It was an attempt to overcome known gestures and comfort. Ordinary people performed to express the inexpressible, and formed an unrehearsed affinity.
Bangladeshi artist Salma Abedin Prithi is particularly interested on rituals and women’ iconography. Her project Gloomy Sunday focuses on female as a homemaker, who spends most of her times at home dreaming of marriage, kitchen, body, womb and a child. Prithi’s departure from a broadcast journalist to an artist liberated her social narrative from mere news and entered to a more psychological experience. While spending long days alone in a house after a quickly planned marriage, Prithi’s depression rose when time slowed down and her companions were the kitchen, tv, mirror and thoughts of a child. Prithi’s sketches and photographs are the tableaus produced in her home mostly with the studio-like environment, glossy cloths, disguises and plastic objects. Her absurdist approach also deals with the body, veil, domestic works and fantasy. Prithi is specifically interested in the rituals to understand women’s iconography.
Bind is a set of portraits where people stood with or without the beloved ones in front of my camera, and wrote their feelings around the photographs. I went from one house to another, known and unknown, met mother and daughter, husband and wife, lovers, friends, siblings and asked about their relationships. The story has become a monologue of people where someone is confronting own self, frankly expressing thoughts and feelings in an intimate space.
Relationships have complex, multiple layers but someway it overcomes the difference of class, race, age and sex and meets to a divine line where intimacy stays strong. To me it is difficult to define any relationship where I have found many contradictions and surprising connections at the same time. There are times when breach of trust breaks someone’s heart and leads to a separation. But the intimacy is still felt through an absence. Many character of my portraits stood alone in the photographs but their mind traveled to the loved ones.
While making portraits, getting into personal life of unknown people was difficult job but there wasn’t any better way than invading personal space to explore an untold narrative. I followed a diverse range of people who have different economic conditions, varied sexual identities and eventually found many incredible stories. I found a lady crying in a solitary life, a transgender deeply craving for commitment in love, a pregnant woman waiting to hold the beloved one, a divorced man getting lost in nostalgia, a determined mother raising a deaf child, a dwarf man standing in an empty staircase.
There were many people and stories that couldn’t show in my edit but also couldn’t remove from my memories. I met a celebrated figure who is accompanied by thousands but still feels alone. He meets his wife once a week with whom he doesn’t have any physical relationship for last six years. They never fight just to keep peace in life. Cold relationship turns to ice but ice never melts, only gets stronger with times.
I met a married couple Polash and Parvin, who both are blind. I took them to a park to photograph and saw them touching each other’s body just to feel loved. I found twin sisters who love the fact that they confuse people with their identical look and twin brothers who almost hate each other. There were many stories, some were witty, some were emotional. Many strong relationships were mysterious, which showed continuous complains, anger, misunderstanding, uncertainty but still the bond stayed strong, maybe because of a very simple reason.
Flight 0001 is an imaginary flight of the destitute people of Bangladesh, a country highly dependent on migration and international remittance. It was really surprising to see almost hundreds of people in an airforce museum trying to get inside a plane which will never fly. These are all ordinary people of Dhaka paying a dollar to experience an airplane which is not affordable for many real life. It was an absolute freedom to have a break from their mundane reality. But more Prithi photographed the pseudo passengers, more she could relate the scenes with migrant issues which remains uncertain and scary for many labours of the city. Dreaming a better income often push them to a barren desert or an unknown locality far from their loved ones. Some loses connections and some never returns. The museum only stays as a metaphor in Prithi’s work to explore an unreal flight which turns to both desire and nightmare.
Achlee is a body of work consisting the family of my friends, neighbors, relatives in Old Dhaka and the juxtaposition of their past and presence. This work has collected photographs of the family albums.