Interview with guest curator Sadia Marium, for ‘words; shouted, blabbered, shattered in between the walls

An alumni from 2014, photographer and curator Sadia Marium (Bangladesh) was invited to be a guest curator for a projection evening in the festival programme of our 16th Edition. Featuring the works of 19 visual artists, their projects draw on personal experiences of past, present and imaginary futures.

“America: A Discourse” by Amy Parrish
“Town Boy” by Sathish Kumar

What is ‘words; shouted, blabbered, shattered in between the walls’ about and what is the inspiration behind it?

It was at that particular time, intense and uncertain; most of us became entirely dependent on virtual spaces to be able to communicate outside where we were living in.  Birthday celebrations, weddings, seminars, classrooms, protests, family meetings, disputes, reading groups, talks, online selling, for daily conversation to mob attack; Zoom, chat rooms, WhatsApp kept buzzing. My grandma used to hallucinate that the people on Television talk to her, I doubted her. These boxes were speaking their hearts out so as to explain everything as an attempt to making sense of existence in the time of lockdown, social and physical distance, inhumanity, and political volatility.

My lack of words, inarticulate to express feelings was making me impatient in front of the virtual box I named myself in. My words, whatever language I wanted to speak were reverberated, occasionally heard and most often lost in technical glitches in between the social bubbles I’ve created and chose to be in.

“Fragile Fragments” by Vinita Barretto
“Ain” by Riti Sengupta
“Tufaan” by Kirti Kumari
“My Body Is” by Leticia Zica

Could you tell us about your curatorial journey? 

Working with the curatorial team of ‘Chobi Mela’ made me interested in ‘Curation’. Later on, I started to work for Bengal Arts Programme where my roles interchanged to Programme Coordinator and Assistant Curator. The spirited Curatorial team in Bengal Arts programme including Tanzim Wahab (chief curator), Abir Shome (designer & assistant curator), Israt Jahan, Sounak Das, Shimul Saha, Sarwar Jahan, Kamrul Hasan, Al Farid, helped me to nurture my growing curiosity about Curatorial practice. Idea generation, connection with artists, working with meticulous technical details, nailing walls; I’ve realized how engrossed I am in this process of creating and showing artists’ works.

In 2019 I participated in ‘Curatorial Intensive South Asia’ – an initiative, fellowship for young curators of South Asia facilitated by Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan, Delhi, and Khoj International Artists’ Association. The first phase was a two-week residential programme at Khoj Studios in 2019 and in the second phase, the fellows had the opportunity to independently develop curatorial projects. 13-curated exhibitions including  ‘GHAR’ (my project) were exhibited from 14th – 20th December 2019 at India International Centre, New Delhi. This fellowship programme became a key inspiration for me towards theoretical, structural analysis, and experimental engagement possibilities of curatorial practice. 

“A Surrogate Mourner” by Robic Upadhayay
“Before I Forget” by Naman Shrivastava

What was the selection process of the artists included in the show? What were you looking for?

It was an open call. I was looking for the contemplation of this time and space we exist and imagine- marked, unmarked, virtual or physical, Pre-Corona world-now-hypothetical ‘new realities’, juxtaposition of fiction-real as well as critical views of the artists on their states, social systems, personal choices, and privileges. Not forgetting the satirical aspects of life, a pause, juncture, breathing spaces, undefined aspects of life.

What are the advantages and limitations of curating for a slideshow projection?

This year we can’t even project the slideshows in physical spaces, which is quite challenging to make a slideshow with works of artists, which needs equal attention. The disadvantages of slideshow projection I feel are the absence of respite and tactile nature.

“Where the Mind is Without Fear” by Anisha Baid
“Who Gets To See The Sun” by Fransisca Angela

What was the working relationship with the artists of the show like? How closely did you collaborate with the artist for their segment of the show?

This is the first time I am curating work submitted in response to the open call. I preferred to show the works of the artists whom I personally know and familiar with their work processes. Therefore, in this case, I shared my thoughts regarding the works of each artist, asked for their suggestions, advice, possibilities which led us to make something together and to see a path for future dialogue. This exceptional time, uncertainty about our own lives also took our conversation to unusual dimensions, made it less formal.

What do you hope that the viewers will take away from the slideshow?

Ambiguity of the time, queries about falsehood – memories, political-social structure, vulnerabilities, complex cognitive state, feeling of touch, adoration, and imperfection; like life itself.

Interview by Tan Lee Kuen