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<nettime> My Mobile Weighs A Ton
Naeem Mohaiemen on Fri, 26 Sep 2008 18:11:28 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> My Mobile Weighs A Ton

My Mobile Weighs A Ton is a project searching for visual tactics in
response to my 2d year of living under a semi-military regime in
Bangladesh. In an environment where artists, writers, and activists
are finding channels, voices, possibilities slowly being drained dry,
it's urgent to find other paths and spaces.

This project was realized as a solo show at Gallery Chitrak (Dhaka)
last month. The full project is now online. Rooms (1 to 9) is the
show, and Background, Notes and Debates is ancillary text-- including
text I could not put in the gallery to evade government censors.


BACKGROUND: 100 spoons but I need a knife

As the promised December '08 return to democracy/elections approach,
Bangladesh's grand experiment is in dark waters. August 2008 was
the 1st anniversary of the fiery anti-army riots that exploded on
university campuses last year: a tectonic disturbance that was the
first sign of derailed blueprints. Invited to show at Gallery Chitrak,
I imagined a shadow commemoration of that August. The week before
Ramadan is dead time anyway, no booked shows. A show about mobile
phone photos, I free-styled to the gallery staff. It can be our
charity show, he replied.

Month 20 living under a Military-backed/Embassy Row supported
Caretaker Government (CTG), I can feel my dissident energy seeping
away (in a text for Carlos Motta's Buena Vida/Democracy project I
wrote that I knew there would be no Last man in front of Tiananmen
tanks). As catharsis, I've been getting into arguments with old
friends. This sometimes degenerates into shouting matches. Later we
apologize over sms, email, gchat. On campus, it seems that everyone
is strung out on some narc. But maybe it's just nerves. As our brains
cook to a crisp from an un-ending political limbo, mass psychosis is
tearing at friendships/communities/alliances. The CTG took power on
1/11 ('07): a life full of numerology.

This project started from  a series of mobile phone photos I took in
the aftermath of 2007 riots (and a few where re-imagined from other
contexts). The show statement couldn't refer the actual events
priority was to make sure the gallery stayed open for 10 days), so I
focused on aesthetics in the show statement:

[Begin] Something is making me queasy. We are inside an Asian century,
and a local situation, that is producing endless beautiful imagery.
But it's all a little too gorgeous and refined. I get worried facing
so much aesthetic perfection. Still need space for mistakes, rudeness,
bacteria, and things that just don't fit.

My work is interested in damage and panic. Politics come from the
context in which image war happens. Mobile phone photos: blurry,
low dpi, poorly framed, no rule of thirds, no color depth. Giving
you quick access to make temporary provocations, without planning,
intention or press card. As accidental as the boy snapping his lover
on Dhanmondi Lake. Koi, amar kotha shune hasho na to.

We crave more spaces for DIY. Yes, anyone can do this, and everyone
should. No barriers, no high culture priests, no hierarchy, no gurus.
Eventually of course, every rebellion becomes it's own clique. That's
when we need to move on to the next space. Friction and creative
chaos. Accidental images get in the way of blueprints. Some people
want us to shut up and become a nation of shoppers. But we're not
quite ready yet to be Singapore.[End]

I spent time debating whether I should keep quotes around a very
trivial matter (label for an installation), thinking that would be
enough of a signpost: to the Army statement at a press conference
about the riots. The problem with ellipsis is, in the time of brutal
edges only a hammer is understood. Bread crumbs were eaten & lost. One
older artist told me at the opening, you need to make it more obvious,
subtle won't work. This comes back to the question of audience. Farah
Ahmed emailed about the concern: public ki khabe (will the public eat
it). Public may not khabe, but dumbing down is brain suicide. Keep
looking for paths, many paths.

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