Bangladeshi Marzia Farhana’s biennale work talks about ecological catastrophe

>>Marzia Farhana comes from a riverine country that is no stranger to floods

Marzia Farhana comes from a riverine country that is no stranger to floods; so the Bangladeshi artist decided that Kerala too warranted some education about the dangers of mindless economic growth. After all, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale that had invited her as a participant was only four months short of its forthcoming edition when monsoons rained catastrophe across the host state.

The devastating Kerala deluge of August 2018 prompted the youngster from Dhaka to go for a mixed-media installation that throws light on potential calamities owing to rampant commercialisation, human exploitation, commodity fetishism and destruction of nature.

Today, on display at the main Aspinwall House venue of the art festival is an installation that features suspended household materials like refrigerators, televisions and books retrieved from flood-affected homes. “The idea is to showcase the impermanence of material wealth in this world,” says the 33-year-old artist, who was awarded a prize for innovation (2014) a Central St Martins, University of the Arts London, where she completed her master’s degree.

The work ‘Ecocide and the Rise of Free Fall’ is an urgent call to re-conceptualise and restructure humankind’s relationship with the environment, through a decolonising process. “The objects in mid-air represent the transitional phase in history that we currently occupy, trapped within an irresistible fall,” says Marzia. The installation talks about the perils involved in continuous exploitation of Mother Earth.

For the artist, the suspended objects represent the traumatised condition of the world, not just humans but “everyone and everything else” it comprises. “It is representation of what we have done with the social and political systems of the world and how all of it is just feeding capitalism and none of it is working for us. The installation is a statement made in an attempt to raise awareness.”

The artist generally works through collaborations. This she does on realising that the process can symbolically reinstate empathy and dignity in humans. To Marzia, these are two qualities that are getting drained away from everyday social life as a result of an increasing corporate culture that is driven by capital.

Marzia’s understanding of art primarily comes from the aesthetics and history of movements like Dada, Fluxus and Situationist Internationale. She has developed an individual idiom in different media that include painting, installation, assemblage and video installation.

At the biennale, viewers of Marzia’s work are allowed to walk through the four-room exhibit area to get the feel of natural destruction. The installation is divided into two parts: machines and visceral organs. “Both are connected to each other with tapes,” she points out. “I am trying to showcase how everyone is suffering in the violent conditions of a world where humans have become more of machines and machines have become more of humans.”

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