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Doctoral Project

Collectives, localities and networks in the emerging contemporary art scenes of Nepal and Bangladesh
Marlene Harles (M.A.)

In my PhD project, I focus on the transcultural relations between the contemporary art fields of Nepal and Bangladesh. My initial research highlights the recent mushrooming of artist-initiated groups and collectives in both countries as transcultural phenomenon that can be compared with and discussed in relation to more established groups in countries like India. I aim at understanding how these collectives shape the local contemporary art scenes. And more precisely, what role do collective effort and collaborative actions play in the development of a new generation of contemporary artists that is able to put a local landscape on a global map?

Compared to their economically emerging neighbors India and China, Bangladesh and Nepal have gained little attention within the contemporary art market and the academic disciplines, including the Anthropology of Art. Both countries have however, over the last couple of years, shown remarkable dynamics as emerging fields of art production. In 2011, the artist group ‘Britto’ secured Bangladesh’s first presence at the Venice Biennale. In collaboration with the Shilpakala Academy (an established national institutions for art in Bangladesh), the Samdani Art Foundation (a new non-profit art institution) organized the country’s first commercial Art Fair in 2012, in response to Delhi’s annual India Art Fair, and translocally connected to the Kathmandu International Art Festival (KIAF). Alongside these ‘international’ events, local artist initiatives increasingly foster exchange within and between national borders through regular artist talks, workshops and residencies, in sometimes intensely intertwined, sometimes disconnected realms.

My project tries to both open up the methodological and theoretical scope of Art and Anthropology and to acknowledge the new, vibrant efforts in an emerging inner-Asian field. In order to achieve my research aim, I focus on five concepts: localities, institutions, events, networks and agents.