Munem Wasif Land of Undefined Territory
Munem Wasif’s haunting series of photographs of an undefined land elucidates the dialectic relationship between a land and its identity, an identity at risk given the relatively new concept of the nation state and of the environmental effects of man’s “progress” post the industrial revolution. Situated on the edge of a blurred boundary of Bangladesh and India, the mundane, almost extra-terrestrial land hides human interaction with its surface and exposes ever-changing curves with Wasif’s repetitive frames.
It seems that frames rarely move from each other, slowing down time and motion and blurring the character of a land, disassociating it from its political and geographical identity. This images questions the identity of a land that is tied to a specific political and geographic context, but which could also be anywhere, as Wasif displaces the viewer from space and time.
The chosen area of land in this series is a mere observer of nearly a hundred years of land disputes, which saw colonization, 1947’s divide of the Indian subcontinent and mass-migration with Partition, and 1971’s liberation war of Bangladesh which created the current border tension with the neighboring country, India. Absence of any profound identity for its existence never diminishes its presence, and its body carries the wound of aggressive industrial acts, such as stone collection and crushing. This land belongs to no one, and is thus exploitable by anyone motivated to avail of the land’s unlikely riches. As hills and mountains are cut away to mine the material needed to build Bangladesh’s roads, the communities who have lived on the land for thousands of years become alien to it, as they can no longer identify their community by natural markers.
Wasif’s work is not a definitive act of understanding the totality of deeds, rather deliberately ignorant of them with the help of an unconscious camera, to merely show land’s lone existence over a period of time. The vantage points of the frames only give a starting point, but don’t provide any conclusion. Look-alike frames and ambient sounds once overcome the optical unconscious of the camera and bounce elusive feelings and absurd sensitivity.
About the author
1983 Dhaka, Bangladesh
Munem Wasif is a Dhaka-based artist who investigates complex social and political issues by getting close to people, both physically and psychologically, dealing with multiple questions and contradictions through his artistic language, which often employs stark black and white photography. Wasif often experiments beyond tradition and tests the possibilities of fiction, while still using familiar documentary language. His interests lie in the concept of ‘documents’ and ‘archives’ and their corresponding influence on politically and geographically complex issues.
- 2016 Land of undefined territories, Gwangju Biennale, Singapore Biennale, Dhaka Art Summit, Bangladesh
- 2016 In God We Trust, Galerie-Kinzinger, Vienna, Austria
- 2015 In God We Trust, 247 Gallery, Paris, France
- 2014 Belonging, Gallery Clementine de la Feronniere, Paris, France
- 2010 Salt Water Tears, Kunsthal Rotterdam, Netherland
- 2012 Salt Water Tears, Musée du Sel, La reunion, France
Grants and Awards:
- 2016 Bengal Practice grant, 2016
- 2008 City of Perpignan Young Reporter’s Award, VISA POUR L’IMAGE, France
- 2008 F25, International Award for concerned photography, Italy
- 2007 Joop Swart Masterclass by World Press Photo, Netherlands
Le Monde 2, Sunday Times Magazine, Guardian, Politiken, Io Donna, Mare, Du, Days Japan, L’expresso, Librations’, Geo, Courier international, Neon, Der Zeit, Asian Geographic, British journal of photography.
- 2014 Belonging, Clementine de la Feronniere, France
- 2011 Larmes salées /Salty Tears, Images Plurielles, France
Richard Mosse, Heat Maps, 2016
Mandy Barker, Beyond Drifting: Imperfectly Known Animals, 2015
Saskia Groneberg, Büropflanze, 2012
Beate Gütschow, S Series, 2004-2009
Benny Lam, Subdivided Flats, 2012
Michael Wolf, Tokyo Compression, 2008-2010
Munem Wasif, Land of Undefined Territory, 2014-2015
Pavel Wolberg, Barricades, 2009-2014
Rinko Kawauchi, Ametsuchi, 2012
Sergey Ponomarev, Europe Migration Crisis, 2015
Sohei Nishino, Diorama Map, 2010-2016
Thomas Ruff, ma.r.s, 2013