Black Rice / Hispaniola / Illegal Canons
Exhibitions at Fondation Lucien Paye
29 April to 4 May 2015
Preview 29 April 2015 18:00 - 21.30 hrs
Open All days from 15:00 - 19:00 hrs
Fondation Lucien Paye
45 Boulevard Jourdan, 75014 Paris
RER B - Cite Universitaire ; Metro 4 - Porte D'Orleans
Talk May 1 - 18:00 hrs
Discursivités plurielles d’un lieu de mémoire : patrimoine culturel du Marais
Black Rice - Naresh Kumar
Hispaniola - Yogesh Barve & Clark House Initiative with Hamm & Kamanger et Rachel Marks & Roger Bezombes et Aubusson
Illegal Canons - Poonam Jain, Amol Patil, Prabhakar Pachpute, Rupali Patil &CAMP
Performances 29 May 2015
Naresh Kumar - 19:00 hrs
Rachel Marks - 20:30 hrs
Curated by Sumesh Sharma, Clark House Initiative
Paris Qalam, Naresh Kumar 2015
Black Rice is often the charred remains of burnt rice after a village has been scortched for dissident activitiy in India's North-East regions. Zasha Colah & Rahul Bhattacharya as curators began a collective called Black Rice in 2008 in Nagaland looking into how art addressed injustice , how its myriad strategies channeled legitimate concerns unaddressed by the justice system, rather were addressed through the visual arts - through public sculpture, performance and tapestry weaving. Black Rice - was not known to Kumar, hailing from the wetlands called the 'Chaurs' south of Nepal in the Mithila Terai, he grew up in the home of a farmer who grew three crops of rice using the natural inundation of the wetlands from Himalayan rivulets following in from Nepal. During a few monsoons these rivulets would bring floods, destroying the entire village, and people would then survive on the rotting wet rice and the fish brought in plentiful by the rivers. The rice often had to be roasted and dried, the results were often charred. Successive floods also brought a load of debt, Kumar along with his brother and father immigrated to the city of Patna, where they began a provision store and pulled rickshaws. Kumar then came upon theatre and finally found a place at the Patna College of Arts and Crafts.
Kumar has questioned how something considered as the bounty of nature can be a curse, why immigration within India is blamed on the ethnic characteristics of people and not on their pathetic situations caused by the fury of nature, excesses or neglect by governments and mere neo-liberal exploitation that has replaced colonial and imperial interest. Migrants from Bihar were first forced out of their homeland by the British who created unnatural famines by forcing people to cultivate Indigo and Opium through a system of land distribution called the 'Permanent Settlement' - where large tracts of land in the Gangetic Delta and Bengal were divided and gifted to the their Indian collaboratuers -Landlords - in liue of taxes, opium , indigo and unquestioned loyalty. The system paralyzed the agrarian communities of this region, forcing them into a poverty from which they havent ever recovered and are enslaved by a reinforced system of caste and violence.
From the mid 19th century people began migrating out of the Eastern Gangetic plains of India first to the economically rich trading post of Calcutta where they worked as labour. But the revolt of 1857 made the British realise that their unjust division of the plains of north India had created large mass of unhappy people, desperate to change their situation. An exit plan was hatched one with the promise of a golden land far away that beckoned the landless, the outcasted, and naturally the able worker. Gangs of 'Arkatias' - recruiters began to comb these regions luring able bodied youth to an offer of indentured labour in a far away land that would only consume a decade of their lives after which they would be granted land that would literally produce gold.
Around 4 million Indians were transported as indentured labourers or girmityas to Mauritius, Seychelles , Reunion and South Africa on the African Continent; to Guyana, Trinidad Tobago, Suriname, Guyane Francais, Guadeloupe and Jamaica among others in the Carribbean and South America; and to Fiji, Burma and Malaysia in Asia. It happened after the abolition of slavery, indentureship was to replace slaves from Africa who had until then worked the plantation economies in the 'New World'. Majority of the Indians were transported from the modern Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and the Andhras.
Paris Qalam, Naresh Kumar 2015
Biharis form the largest diaspora among Indian migrants outside India, but also as internal migrants within India where the migration has been more recent in the last decades, mainly to metropolitan cities where they come constantly under attack from parochial xenophobic voices. In neighbouring Burma, Pakistan and Bangladesh they live as stateless citizens or a demographic threat to concepts of authenticity of race, language and culture ,much attached to the idea of nationhood. But despite their own history of exploitation and persecution their descendants in Mauritius, Guyana and Trinidad pursue racist stances in national politics against their fellow citizens who have descended from African slaves who preceded their arrival to the 'New World' . Among them is also a Nobel Laureate who describes his African neighbours as Nihilists and cries hoarse with his writing warning of a clash of civilizations due to the rise of Islam.
Kumar was unaware of these deep lines of schism when he arrived here in Paris. He had won a scholarship to the Ecole nationale superieurre des Beaux-Arts, Paris last Summer. As a part of the scholarship he was provided a student residence at Fondation Lucien Paye, a part of Cite Universitaire, a system of student halls based on national representation. Lucian Paye is the only 'multi-national' student hall that hosts students from Africa funded and founded by the French diplomat Lucien Paye. Kumar met with the Senegalese artist and Afro-futurist thinker Kemi Bassene among others and met with his neighbours who came from across Africa.
In Paris Indians do not associate themselves with people from Africa, most likely due to their colonial attitudes towards colour. The Africans are often aware of this much widespread co-immigrant racism and resent this act of superiority. Kumar though found a strange affinity with them, in the neighbourhood of La Chappelle people would stand on the streets and sell their wares, a scene much familiar to him, a scene that made him comfortable in a city where he could not communicate without an ability in French. In a second hand bookstore he found typed notebooks from the 1930s of a student at University of Paris Sorbonne, the pages were inscribed about the socio-economic problems of the Mediterranean, the poverty in France's department of Algeria, the problems that were also on the anvil. Kumar then began documenting the lives of the immigrants in aquarelle on those brittle pages creating studies of hawkers and itinerant illegal people living lives on the streets of Paris. He began to then do performance on the street one of them had him chewing a baguette with another person each taking one side of the long bread. The baguette disgusted Kumar, he was a habitual rice eater, one day he found black rice from France's southern wetlands of Camargue, he understood the politics of subsidy the European Union gave its farmers, a subsidy his father would have been in greater need off, he understood the large corporations that controlled the trade of paddy to Africa, a staple diet in West Africa. Rice connected him to the many people who lived as aliens or 'Etrangeres' in France. He asks 'What is a Black Identity? I am darker than most people who come here from Africa? we deal with the city and immigration in similar ways! Can the word Black be applied to trades? And are those trades and informal systems negative? , can Black become an aspired colour? ''.
Every Wednesday night Kumar has collected old pieces of plywood, disused mirrors, televisions, new aluminum beds thrown out of homes creating a warehouse of First World detritus in his 10 metres square student room. On them he etches the word black, paints water-colours, burns rice and creates sculptures and uses them as props of installations that speak his observations of a city which is a grande carrefour or crossroad of nationalities, as an artist in his first solo outside India.
Roger Bezcombes & Aubusson 1950s
Roger Bezcombes & Aubusson
Dzamil Kamanger & Kalle Hamm
Danish chocolate comes from Denmark, thats what a short video within a luxe store at Copenhagen declares as people have their expensive chocolates wrapped up in hand printed artisanal paper. The video well edited on a large high definition digital video screen depicts a two Danish men sorting through Cocoa pods as a Dominican labourer hands it out to them, the choreography of the act depicts the worker provides the quantity sorted into quality by two Vikings who have an innate ability at finding good cocoa beans. The video is shot at the estates of the Danish Chocolatier on the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean. It is the largest of the islands in the Caribbean and is divided into two nations - Haiti and the Dominican Republic, also by language French or Haitian Creole and Spanish in the Dominican Republic. Also divided by an undercurrent of racism one which is based on mulatto divisions based on colour, the relative poverty of Haiti to the Dominican Republic and International perceptions of the two nations.
Yogesh Barve uses these divisions that he turns into divisions of colour on old table tops, vinyl records, disected 1970's 'Delsey Suitcases' and old amateur canvases we found together which were abandoned after the closing of the Marches aux pouces or flea market at Portes des Vanves, Paris.''Barve uses the idea of the slash in the form of un/learning, de/constructing and non/conformism, and as a means of thinking and working. Using a range of materials, including found objects, digital technologies, such as his mobile phone camera, and search and game engines, Barve's work examines social and cultural experiences of in/equality, ir/rationality, the un/invited, and the in/outsider.'' writes curator Amanprit Sandhu writing for the online journal Ibraaz.org . That slash is akin to the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. But the division of borders are not equal they do not split the islands into two equal halves, which Barve now rearranges in his series titled ' Description of Struggle' which is a short story by Frantz Kafka.
Dzamil Kamanger and Kalle Hamm are an Iranian - Finnish Collective based in Helsinki, they have been partners since the last decade , Kamanger works with performance and embroidery and Hamm with painting, and together they collaborate to create criticisms of barriers put forth by the European Union to dissuade migrating cultures. A problem they have personally faced and experienced within the benevolent Finnish Welfare State. Kamanger spent 10 years in Iraq as an Iranian prisoner of war, he had crossed over to Iraq to meet a few relatives from his Kurdish community when he was found by Saddam Hussain's republican guard, on his release he escaped to Turkey and then onwards to Finland. He was escaping many paradoxes he faced as a Kurdish man in Iran, someone who was gay in a country where homophobia is legal and his own need to be an artist for which he had not found the tools yet. One night while working in a restaurant he met Hamm who helped him find his space in art. Since then they collaborate on intricate and deep reflections of their existence as two men divided by technical absurdness of nationhood but akin in thoughts and interests.
One of them is 'Immigrant Garden' which is a series of watercolours of plants that are part of a list of non-endemic flora that are alien to Finland's forests. Hamm found the scientific literature on these plants similar to the xenophobic brochures and propaganda spread by Europe's right wing immigration conservatives. Colonialism and its agents acted like a large swarm of bees distributing plants from across the world to plantations and communities sometimes saving people from starvation and many a times pushing endemic species to extinction. But Europe would not have survived if the potato from the new world had not solved its hunger. Indian cuisine was formed by the portuguese who brought onions, potatoes, tomatoes and most importantly the chilly. The market for ornamental plants is enormous and from their garden homes they often escape and go feral entering forest tracts; but exotic interests are to be seen at fault. Such exoticism sits well in the art world, it almost bankrolls the auction market and at times museum collecting. Hamm & Kamanger smuggle seeds of aliens plants which they grow in Finnish summers demonstrating the beauty of travel and its eventuality in their series of 22 watercolour drawings ' Immigrant Garden'.
Fondation Lucien Paye has an impressive art collection of works that form a direct affinity to the Negritude movement and modernism. Unlike other student halls that celebrate traditional forms of architecture like greek columns or the 'castle like' Maison des Etats Unis, the Fondation has a more avant garde concrete building decorated by modernist frescoes, wall murals and carved pillars that depict the people of Africa. Inside the there is large room which is the space for cultural events from music, to dance and lectures, which also houses a tapestry designed by Roger Bezombes and woven by the French tapestry maker Aubusson. Rachel Marks a performance artist in Paris from Oklahoma animates the tapestry through a performance where she puts to action a choreographed rendition of the definition of 'Etrangere' or Estranger, the French word used for foreigners. Turning words and speech into action she questions the finality of definitions that describe alienation.
As a sea of humanity awaits to cross the Mediterranean escaping complex situations created by political Machiavellian acts of the First World that rather leaves them to sink into the sea that in August shall welcome vacationers to its resorts to come swim , or park yachts and celebrate film festivals. Disfranchised by visa regimes and welfare systems built on fortunes made during colonisation these people await under bridges in tents like the one we visited in Paris under the bridge at La Chappele.
Sumesh Sharma Paris 2015
Unstationed Shop, Poonam Jain 2014
When the act of travel was scarce we at Clark House often would carry exhibitions that would travel with us as pop-up exhibits to aide the right of our exhibitions to be seen away from our natural and narrow realities, despite visas and bureaucratic institutional planning, an act we continue as research and the surprises last minute exhibitions inform us with.
The act of travel then is illustrated by satirical and layered acts , where Chohreh Feyzdjou’s Paris window display posters taken from an exhibition in Bombay by Goethe Institut is reduced by Poonam Jain into a dust brush used to clean statues in Jain temples or she reduces a stationary shop into an exercise book, one that is made to be taken away and replicated as moveable exhibition becomes a static exhibition, and a stationary stationary shop becomes movable. Another is a drawing for the animation that foreworns the 'Dark Clouds of the Furture' animation that satirizes Gold in Brazil and Coal in India, by Prabhakar Pachpute, a set of letters on social change against the caste system written by the grandfather of Amol K Patil on which he screenprints his angst, or Yogesh Barve provides a set of sheets that are to form a perfect rectangle - parallel equal lines, but to bring about that equality despite the clear steps and a diagram, it is tough to achieve - much like how society sabotages tools of equality in the Indian Constitution.
There is tile skirting made up of drawings of street workers in action cleaning up their allocated streets one Bombay morning, Amol K Patil maps them like a theatrical performance demonstrating that their camaraderie would be the perfect format for a utopian artist union. Each work enters into conversation on travel and equality, and their manifestations in art as the spontaneous pop-up exhibition first happened in an abandoned shipyard in Tallin on the baltic sea once the path of great escape from Soviet Camaraderie, much akin to the path many take across the Mediterranean only to be dissuaded by the European Union. A modernist still life by a young immigrant from an Islamic background sold by a Christian Charity in Finland becomes the fulcrum of the conversation the pop-up wishes to raise about the act of aspiration visual stereotypes immigrants are to adhere to and which often manifests as 'modernism'.
CAMP demonstrates how ancient trade routes do not get dissuaded by contemporary geo-politics, where wooden boats made in low-tech shipyards in the port of Mandvi, in the region of Kutch, India, circumvent sanctions by illegally buying diesel from the Iranian Republican guard , or docking in the harbour of Karachi , on their way to Sharjah from where they load second hand cars, dentist chairs, pasta among other things to be taken to Somalia, to the free economies of Bosaso, Mogadishu, places where states dont exist and nor do their taxes, protection against imports or formal trade contracts. CAMP creates a film based on participation, downloading videos made by the Kutchi sailors on their Nokia phones while out on sea, creating a fluid narrative which is allows the liberty of interpretation rather than the narrative created on European media about sea crossings to Lampedusa.
Sumesh Sharma, Tallinn, Estonia 2015
Fondation Lucien Paye
Lucien Paye Residence was inaugurated in 1951 under the name House of France d'Outre-Mer. Its original purpose was to welcome in Paris of students from French territories oversea. After the independence of former colonies, the residence permit to stay in priority nationals of countries of Black Africa. In 1972 it was renamed Lucien Paye. This university, Minister of Education in 1961 and former senior official of France in Senegal, played an important role in the creation of African universities.The residence, decidedly African style, was designed by three architects: Jean Vernon and Bruno Philippe, who then signed Morocco's House and the House of Lebanon, and Albert Laprade, creator of African Arts Museum and Oceania in Paris, who was the author, twenty years before, de la Rosa ABREU DE GRANCHER Foundation. Several artists have collaborated in the creation of the house: Meauzé Pierre, who made the carved pillars from the entrance, Anna Quinquaud, author of the bas-reliefs of the facade, and Roger Bezombes who signed the monumental tapestries hall, executed in the workshops of Aubusson. Fondation Lucien Paye and Maison de Tunisie are the only houses built after World War II. In 1999 large paintings were found in the storage which are now being restored.
Isidora Stanković, MA (1988) finished her Bachelor and MA studies of History of Art at the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Belgrade and is a researcher at the Doctoral School of History of Art, University Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne. SFields of her interest include the problems of heritage theory, lieux de mémoire and culture of memory.
For her thesis Discursivités plurielles d’un lieu de mémoire : patrimoine culturel du Marais different examples of the activation of the memories related to the past of the Marais district are being studied – initiatives of different groups for the preservation of this district's heritage, cultural institutions or different religious or ethnic communities related to the Marais. In that context, one of the important parts of the research is the discourse of various Jewish communities that influenced the social space and the history of the district. The majority of these communities are the descendants of people who came during the various phases of immigration from Eastern Europe and Northern Africa at the end of the 19th and throughout the 20th century.
Sumesh Sharma (1983) is a curator informed by alternate art histories that often include cultural perspectives informed by socio-economics and politics. Immigrant Culture in the Francophone, Vernacular Equalities, Movements of Black Consciousness in Culture are his areas of interest. He co-founded the Clark House Initiative in 2010.His Masters in Research at the Universite Paul Cezanne (2008) was an Inquiry into Artist Careers, and he was part of the Gwangju Biennale Curators Course 2010 as well as the first Independent Curators International's Curatorial Intensive in Bombay. He has been a resident at ISCP New York (2012), Kadist Art Foundation Paris (2013) and the Manifesta Online Residency (2013), Casa Masaccio Tuscany (2013), San Art - Ho Chin Minh City Vietnam (2014), Para Site Hong Kong (2014) . Forgotten art histories and engaging young visual art practitioners to create an alternate exhibition history is his primary curatorial concern.
Clark House Initiative, established in 2010 by Zasha Colah and Sumesh Sharma is a curatorial collaborative concerned with ideas of freedom. Strategies of equality have informed their work, while experiments in re-reading of histories, and concerns of representation and visibility, are ways to imagine alternative economies and freedom. Clark House Initiative intends to actively recall political and artistic figures into contemporaneity, and to question the recent rise of fascism in India based on exaggerated rumours of economic prosperity and nationalist pride.