Cocking up one's ears to listen has many different implications.
One interpretation would be to give in, -- surrender to the
will of the speaker. We are all subjected to this, even if
we are not willing, as we rely on the ubiquitous media for
information. Television delivers what we all crave for, and
by paying attention we obey. Perhaps, this unwitting obedience
is one aspect that the artist Tayeba Begum Lipi tries to covey
in her latest show titled "Even the Walls Have Ears".
is a video installation that draws from TV news footage. It
is like a trip through the channel-surfing, news-probing brain,
but the pace is stepped up and a few added ploys have given
it a customised look. The big blinking eye of the artist herself
that pops up before the start of every other news footage
is an element of surprise. Other than this the rest seems
like relays of war footage randomly chosen from news channels.
But Lipi chips in with few of her own footage that she and
her artist husband Mahbubur Rahman took of the grenade attack
scene after the carnage was over on 21 August at Awami League
rally. The unexploded grenade that surfaces from time to time
is one of her own additions.
the subject of obedience. Lipi has put a series of ears in
grid. The smallish portraits of speakers in etching too were
assembled in grid. The medium-sized etchings were displayed
in a row. All this evokes the disciplinary principle of the
army or a school. Repetition, superfluity and order, these
are the external configurations that lead one to the core,
where lies the manipulators. And once in the gallery and past
the video projection on the partition put up in the middle,
the conference of the powerbrokers is on. The big rectangular
canvas, confirms the presence of the grand manipulators. Untouchable
and secure, they convene the meeting that affects all but
intention was to project the scenes of Afghan and Iraq war,
the rest came in as the idea evolved," says Lipi, whose
intention, as she confirms, was not to install things that
would prove her artistic might but will address the issue
of war and terrorism in the media. "War that I have seen
through BBC/CNN and had the opportunity to compare with a
channel like DW," she adds.
is conscious of how media manipulates or sometimes even manufactures
the truth. In her video she incorporated the scenes of the
August 21 massacre as well as from the documentary Fahrenheit
9/11 to stretch the boundary.
projection has become trite in the west by over use. Faced
with the question of why she had gone on to use the same media,
Lipi defends her cause. "I've dealt with how I was personally
affected by the media after the twin tower tragedy, how we
all have lost belief in the western media regarding their
capacity to stick to the facts. So, I couldn't conceive of
it without the element of the video projection," she
the installations, if the grand arrangement of the double-sided
projection fails to inspire any viewer, the chimes at the
entrance may provide a respite. Even the etchings with their
informal application of craft and the monochrome blandness
may also revive the spirit.
well thought out presentation puts a lot of emphasis on arrangement.
As her idea was to turn the proverb "even the walls have
ears" inside out by addressing it out right, as she does
while explaining, it called for a more direct an approach.
"I wanted to say that, however discreet they (super powers)
are in planning their plans, the truth finally comes out.
There are meetings behind meetings, and in the end we come
to know about it, nothing remains hidden," she explains.
Her work seems to want to address that in a round about way.
Perhaps the arrangement could have been less sprawled out
than it is in the present show. We did, in the past, experience
Lipi's ability to boldly heap up things in one platter in
her Toys Watching Toys installation, which hits us right in
the face. This time she has played around with the idea of
revealing things sequentially and in a grandiose manner.
exhibition was held at the La Galerie, Alliance Francaise,
Dhaka, from 21 to 31 October.
(R) thedailystar.net 2004