Amar Kanwar to make IHME Helsinki Commission  2022

27/05/2021
Amar Kanwar. Photo: Monica Tiwari.

If every moment contains the possibility of being alive and being dead then could an acute awareness of every moment also create an acute consciousness of living and dying? If a crime continues to occur regardless of the enormous evidence available then is the crime invisible or the evidence invisible or are both visible but not seen?”

Amar Kanwar

The IHME Helsinki Commission 2022 entitled Learning from Doubt by Indian artist, filmmaker Amar Kanwar is an online ten-week educational course. The course is based on and emerges from the art installation and exhibition The Sovereign Forest by Kanwar. Lessons learned from experiments about ecological sustainability with a unique seed bank in the state of Odisha, India and the experiences gained during the making and exhibiting of The Sovereign Forest are integrated into the course. The course will be taught online through films, readings, podcasts, and live interactive sessions with the artist. Some of the films will also be shown in a physical location in Helsinki.

The Sovereign Forest – the next phase 

Amar Kanwar´s The Sovereign Forest is an art project that has been ongoing since 2009 and evolving, expanding and experimenting with different forms and presentations. The Sovereign Forest has been made in collaboration with Samadrusti/Sudhir Pattnaik and Sherna Dastur. Samadrusti is a fortnightly Odia political and social news magazine, Sudhir Pattnaik is the editor of Samadrusti and a social activist. Sherna Dastur is a graphic designer and filmmaker based in Delhi.

The Sovereign Forest attempts to initiate a creative response to our understanding of crime, politics, human rights, and ecology. The validity of poetry as evidence in a trial, the discourse on seeing, on compassion, justice, and the determination of the self – all come together in a constellation of films, texts, books, photographs, seeds and processes. The Sovereign Forest has overlapping identities. It continuously reincarnates as an art installation, an exhibition, a library, a memorial, a public trial, an open call for the collection of more “evidence,” an archive, a school and also a proposition for a space that engages with education, politics and art. In 2022, in collaboration with IHME Helsinki, we will again seek other ways to learn, share, address contradictions and dilemmas and find newer solutions.

Learning from Doubt – online course

“Amar Kanwar´s creative investigations remind us of how important compassion, encounters and listening are on our way towards a more sustainable and resilient future and how art can lead change. From the perspective of ecologically sustainable art institutional practise of IHME Helsinki we wanted to select an existing, ongoing project that could be shared with our audiences in Finland while at the same time already happening in another location outside of Finland. Amar Kanwar´s Learning from Doubt online course further supports continuous learning, learning about life itself and all its interdependencies – what could be more relevant to learn from in the times of ecological transition?” concludes the Executive Director and Curator of IHME Helsinki Paula Toppila 

The online course – Learning from Doubt, a public art commission designed for the IHME Helsinki –  is available for all residents of Finland. Students of Fine Arts Academy of University of Arts and students of Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science (HELSUS) of University of Helsinki will take part in the course over a ten-week period in the Spring of 2022. The course will be conducted in English. More details will be announced in Autumn 2021.

University collaboration

“We as teachers and academics at the Helsinki Institute of Sustainability Science HELSUS value highly the interplay of science and art as a method and way of teaching and learning. On the previous course with IHME Helsinki and the Academy of Fine Arts we also clearly experienced the importance of making new connections between students from both universities. We look forward to the cooperation with IHME Helsinki and the possibility of involving our students in Amar Kanwar´s work and teaching. We believe this collaboration will be a concrete way to understand the local to global aspects of sustainability.” states Janna Pietikäinen, vice-dean of academic affairs on behalf of the teaching team at HELSUS.

Hanna Johansson Dean of Fine Arts Academy in University of Arts in Helsinki continues :“Amar Kanwar´s course will be an important and valuable pedagogical initiative where he is not only teaching the becoming artists and scientists of the two universities, but making the teaching itself an artistic process and thus creates also an experimental new way of producing, sharing, and distributing knowledge. We at Academy of Fine Arts are grateful to be able to continue the collaboration with such an urgent and multifaceted topic that Amar Kanwar’s course is presenting.”

Introduction to Amar Kanwar

Amar Kanwar is an artist who was born in New Delhi, India, in 1964, where he currently lives and works. His films and multi‐layered installations originate in narratives often drawn from zones of conflict and are characterized by a unique poetic approach to the personal, social and political.

Recent solo exhibitions of Kanwar’s work have been held at the Ishara Art Foundation, Dubai and New York University, Abu Dhabi Art Gallery (2020);  Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid (2019); Tate Modern, London, Minneapolis Institute of Arts and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York (2018). Kanwar has also participated in Documenta 11, 12, 13 and 14 in Kassel, Germany (2002, 2007, 2012, 2017).

Amar Kanwar has received several awards, including the Prince Claus Award (2017); Creative Time – Annenberg Prize for Art and Social Change (2014); Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts, Maine College of Art, USA (2006); Edvard Munch Award for Contemporary Art, Norway (2005); MacArthur Fellowship in India (2000); Golden Gate Award, San Francisco International Film Festival, USA (1999), as well as the Golden Conch, Mumbai International Film Festival, India (1998). He is also a co-curator of the 17th Istanbul Biennial 2021-22.

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