E-Issue 07 –– AUH
Winter 2023-24

January 29th, 2024

  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in Abu Dhabi/Dubai
  3. Cover Interview: Shaikha Al Ketbi on Darawan
  4. Rapport: Public Art in the Gulf and a Case Study of Manar Abu Dhabi
  5. Hashel Al Lamki’s Survey Exhibition Maqam Reflects on a Decade of Practice in Abu Dhabi
  6. “You Can’t Stand on a Movement”: Michelangelo Pistoletto Interviews Benton Interviewing Pistoletto

Winter/Spring 2024

Exhibition Review July 16, 2024
PAR See Me With Them Hands: Reviewing Giovanni Bassan’s “Private Rooms” at Sainte Anne Gallery

Curators Interview May 14, 2024
AUH Embracing Change through an Open System: Maya Allison and Duygu Demir on “In Real Time” at NYUAD Art Gallery

About ––

    What We Do
    Editorial Board

Interviews ––

    Selected Archive

Open Call ––

    E-08 Seoul

Newsletter ––

Chronological Archive ––

    Selected Archive

Artist Interview November 18th, 2016
AUH Raed Yassin in Abu Dhabi

Editorial March 1st, 2018
AUH Abu Dhabi Is The New Calabasas

Exhibition Listing May 22nd, 2018
DXB Christopher Benton: If We Don't Reclaim Our History, The Sand Will

Artist Interview June 15th, 2018
TYO An Interview with BIEN, a Rising Japanese Artist

Artist Interview July 17th, 2018
TYO Rintaro Fuse on Selfies and Cave Painting

Artist Interview August 28th, 2018
BER Slavs and Tatars: “Pulling a Thread to Undo The Sweater”

Artist Interview September 1st, 2018
NYC Shirin Neshat In Conversation with Sophie Arni and Ev Zverev

Artist Interview September 1st, 2018
PAR Hottest Spices: Michèle Lamy

E-Issue 01 –– AUH/DXB
Summer 2020

August 1st, 2020

  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in the UAE
  3. Pop(Corn): Hashel Al Lamki
  4. Tailoring in Abu Dhabi
  5. Rapport: Dubai
  6. Michael Rakowitz From the Diaspora

Fall/Winter 2020-21

Artist Interview August 23rd, 2020
LHR/MCT Hanan Sultan Rhymes Frankincense with Minimalism

Artist Interview August 24th, 2020
DXB Augustine Paredes Taking Up Space

Artist Interview August 26th, 2020
AUH Sarah Almehairi Initiates Conversations

Market Interview August 28th, 2020
AUH/DXB 101 Pioneers Ethical and Curious Art Collecting

Exhibition September 1st, 2020
DXB Alserkal Arts Foundation Presents Mohamed Melehi

Market Interview September 4th, 2020
DXB Meet Tamila Kochkarova Behind ‘No Boys Allowed’

Artist Interview September 7th, 2020
DXB Taaboogah Infuses Comedy Into Khaleeji Menswear

Artist Interview September 10th, 2020
LHR/CAI Alaa Hindia’s Jewelry Revives Egyptian Nostalgia

Curator Interview September 14th, 2020
UAE Tawahadna Introduces MENA Artists to a Global Community

Exhibition Review September 24th, 2020
MIA a_part Gives Artists 36 Hours to React

Artist Interview September 27th, 2020
AUH BAIT 15 Welcomes New Member Zuhoor Al Sayegh

Market Interview October 14th, 2021
DXB Thaely Kicks Off Sustainable Sneakers

Exhibition Review October 19th, 2020
DXB Do You See Me How I See You?

Exhibition October 22nd, 2020
TYO James Jarvis Presents Latest Collages at 3110NZ

Exhibition Review October 22nd, 2020
AUH Ogamdo: Crossing a Cultural Highway between Korea and the UAE

Book Review October 28th, 2020
DAM Investigating the Catalogues of the National Museum of Damascus

Exhibition Review November 13th, 2020
Kanye Says Listen to the Kids: Youth Takeover at Jameel Arts Centre

Exhibition Review November 16th, 2021
DXB Melehi’s Waves Complicate Waving Goodbye

Exhibition Review November 19th, 2020
DXB Spotlight on Dubai Design Week 2020

Exhibition Review November 21st, 2020
DXB 101 Strikes Again with Second Sale at Alserkal Avenue

Exhibition Review
November 23rd, 2020

AUH SEAF Cohort 7 at Warehouse 421

Exhibition Review December 9th, 2020
SHJ Sharjah Art Foundation Jets Ahead on the Flying Saucer

Curator Interview January 25th, 2021
DXB Sa Tahanan Collective Redefines Home for Filipino Artists

Exhibition Review February 21st, 2021
GRV MIA Anywhere Hosts First Virtual Exhibition of Female Chechen Artists  

🎙️GAD Talk Series –– Season 1 2020

November 1st, 2020
1. What is Global Art Daily? 2015 to Now

November 16th, 2020
2. Where is Global Art Daily? An Open Coversation on Migration as Art Practitioners

November 29th, 2020
3. When the Youth Takes Over: Reflecting on the 2020 Jameel Arts Centre Youth Takeover

December 20th, 2020
4. Young Curators in Tokyo: The Making of The 5th Floor

January 27th, 2021
5. How To Create Digital Networks in The Art World?

E-Issue 02 –– NYC
Spring 2021

February 21st, 2021

  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in NYC
  3. Pop(Corn): Zeid Jaouni
  4. You Can Take The Girl Out Of The City
  5. Rapport: NYC
  6. Kindergarten Records Discuss The Future of Electronic Music
  7. Sole DXB Brings NY Hip-Hop To Abu Dhabi
  8. Wei Han Finds ‘Home’ In New York
  9. Vikram Divecha: Encounters and Negotiations

Spring/Summer 2021

Exhibition Review March 3rd, 2021
DXB There’s a Hurricane at the Foundry

Exhibition Review March 7th, 2021
AUH Re-viewing Contrasts: Hyphenated Spaces at Warehouse421

Curator Interview March 21st, 2021
DXB Permeability and Regional Nodes: Sohrab Hura on Curating Growing Like a Tree at Ishara Art Foundation

Exhibition March 28th, 2021
DXB Alserkal Art Week Top Picks

Exhibition Review April 1st, 2021
DXB A ‘Menu Poem’ and All That Follows

Exhibition Review April 5th, 2021
DXB A Riot Towards Landscapes

Exhibition April 16th, 2021
RUH Noor Riyadh Shines Light on Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Art Strategy

Artist Interview April 26th, 2021
CTU/AUH/YYZ Sabrina Zhao: Between Abu Dhabi, Sichuan, and Toronto

Exhibition Review April 27th, 2021
TYO BIEN Opens Two Solo Exhibitions in Island Japan and Parcel

Artist Interview April 28th, 2021
DXB Ana Escobar: Objects Revisited

Exhibition May 9th, 2021
LDN Fulfilment Services Ltd. Questions Techno-Capitalism on Billboards in London

Artist Interview May 11th, 2021
BAH Mihrab: Mysticism, Devotion, and Geo-Identity

Curator Interview May 20th, 2021
DXB There Is A You In The Cloud You Can’t Delete: A Review of “Age of You” at Jameel Arts Centre

Market Interview May 26th, 2021
TYO Startbahn, Japan’s Leading Art Blockchain Company, Builds a New Art Infrastructure for the Digital Age

Exhibition June 11th, 2021
TYO “Mimicry of Hollows” Opens at The 5th Floor

Exhibiton Review June 20th, 2021
AUH “Total Landscaping”at Warehouse 421

Artist Interview June 30th, 2021
OSA Rintaro Fuse Curates “Silent Category” at Creative Center Osaka

Exhibition Review August 9th, 2021
DXB “After The Beep”: A Review and Some Reflections

E-Issue 03 ––TYO
Fall 2021

October 1st, 2022

  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in TYO
  3. Pop(Corn): Nimyu
  4. Ahmad The Japanese: Bady Dalloul on Japan and Belonging
  5. Rapport: Tokyo
  6. Alexandre Taalba Redefines Virtuality at The 5th Floor
  7. Imagining Distant Ecologies in Hypersonic Tokyo: A Review of “Floating Between the Tropical and Glacial Zones”
  8. Ruba Al-Sweel Curates “Garden of e-arthly Delights” at SUMAC Space
  9. Salwa Mikdadi Reflects on the Opening of NYU Abu Dhabi’s Arab Center for the Study of Art

Fall/Winter 2021-22

Market Interview October 6th, 2021
RUH HH Prince Fahad Al Saud Discusses Saudi Arabia’s Artistic Renaissance

Exhibition October 7th, 2021
RUH Misk Art Institute’s Annual Flagship Exhibition Explores the Universality of Identity

Curator Interview October 15th, 2021
IST “Once Upon a Time Inconceivable”: A Review and a Conversation

Exhibition Review October 16th, 2021
AUH Woman as a Noun, and a Practice: “As We Gaze Upon Her” at Warehouse421

Exhibition Review February 11th, 2022

Artist Interview February 26th, 2022
TYO Akira Takayama on McDonald’s Radio University, Heterotopia, and Wagner Project

Artist Interview March 10th, 2022
DXB Prepare The Ingredients and Let The Rest Flow: Miramar and Zaid’s “Pure Data” Premieres at Satellite for Quoz Arts Fest 2022

Exhibition March 11th, 2022
DXB Must-See Exhibitions in Dubai - Art Week Edition 2022

Exhibition Review March 14th, 2022
DXB Art Dubai Digital, An Alternative Art World?

E-Issue 04 –– IST
Spring 2022

March 15th, 2022

  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in IST
  3. Pop(Corn): Refik Anadol
  4. Rapport: Istanbul
  5. Independent Spaces in Istanbul: Sarp Özer on Operating AVTO

Spring/Summer 2022

Curator Interview March 21st, 2022

Market Interview March 28th, 2022
DXB Dubai's Postmodern Architecture: Constructing the Future with 3dr Models

Exhibition April 23rd, 2022
HK Startbahn Presents “Made in Japan 3.0: Defining a New Phy-gital Reality”, an NFT Pop-Up at K11 Art Mall

Exhibition May 6th, 2022
Istanbul’s 5533 Presents Nazlı Khoshkhabar’s “Around and Round”

Artist Interview May 13th, 2022
“We Are Witnessing History”: Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian On Their Retrospective Exhibition at NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery

Artist Interview June 13th, 2022
DXB “Geometry is Everywhere”: An Interview and Walking Tour of Order of Magnitude, Jitish Kallat’s Solo Exhibition at Dubai’s Ishara Art Foundation

Exhibition June 21st, 2022
DXB Art Jameel Joins The World Weather Network in a Groundbreaking Response to Global Climate Crisis

Exhibition June 27th, 2022
What’s On in the UAE: Our Top Summer Picks

Curator Interview July 9th, 2022
IST Creating an Artist Books Library in Istanbul: Aslı Özdoyuran on BAS

E-Issue 05 –– VCE
Fall 2022

September 5th, 2022

  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in VCE
  3. Pop(Corn): UAE National Pavilion
  4. Rapport: Venice
  5. Zeitgeist of our Time: Füsun Onur for the Turkish Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale
  6. GAD’s Top Picks: National Pavilions
  7. Strangers to the Museum Wall: Kehinde Wiley’s Venice Exhibition Speaks of Violence and Portraiture
  8. Questioning Everyday Life: Alluvium by Ramin Haerizadeh, Rokni Haerizadeh and Hesam Rahmanian at OGR Torino in Venice

Fall/Winter 2022-23

Market Interview June 28th, 2022
How Pearl Lam Built Her Gallery Between China and Europe

Exhibition November 11th, 2022
“Atami Blues” Brings Together UAE-Based and Japanese Artists in HOTEL ACAO ANNEX

Exhibition December 2nd, 2022
TYO Wetland Lab Proposes Sustainable Cement Alternative in Tokyo

Artist Interview December 9th, 2022
DXB Navjot Altaf Unpacks Eco-Feminism and Post-Pandemic Reality at Ishara Art Foundation

Artist Interview January 8th, 2023
TYO Shu Yonezawa and the Art of Animation

Artist Interview January 19th, 2023
NYC Reflecting on Her Southwestern Chinese Bai Roots, Peishan Huang Captures Human Traces on Objects and Spaces

Exhibition Review February 9th, 2023
DXB Augustine Paredes Builds His Paradise Home at Gulf Photo Plus

Artist Interview February 22nd, 2023
DXB Persia Beheshti Shares Thoughts on Virtual Worlds and the State of Video Art in Dubai Ahead of Her Screening at Bayt Al Mamzar

E-Issue 06 –– DXB/SHJ
Spring 2023

April 12th, 2023

  1. Editor’s Note
  2. What’s On in the UAE
  3. Pop(Corn): Jumairy
  4. Rapport: Art Dubai 2023
  5. Highlights from Sharjah Biennial 15
  6. Is Time Just an Illusion? A Review of "Notations on Time" at Ishara Art Foundation
  7. Saif Mhaisen and His Community at Bayt AlMamzar

DXB Christopher Joshua Benton to Debut Mubeen, City as Archive at The Third Line Shop in Collaboration with Global Art Daily

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Navjot Altaf Unpacks Eco-Feminism and Post-Pandemic Reality at Ishara Art Foundation

By Insun Woo

Published on December 9th, 2022

        Ishara Art Foundation opened Dubai’s fall season with Pattern, the first solo exhibition of Navjot Altaf (b.1949) in the Arabian Peninsula. Featuring site-specific installations, sculptures, videos, drawings and photo prints, the exhibition foregrounds Navjot’s longstanding commitment to issues of climate-change, ecology, and feminism and the challenges they face in the digital age.  

We had the chance to interview the artist as she traveled to Dubai for the exhibition’s opening. The following conversation was held on September 16th, 2022, at Ishara Art Foundation, Alserkal Avenue.

1. Navjot Altaf. Photo by Aparna Jayakumar

Insun Woo: This is your first show in the UAE. What was it like to show here? And what is your impression of Dubai so far?

Navjot Altaf: I haven’t been to many art spaces yet, but I enjoyed visiting the Jameel Arts Centre. We are going to Sharjah tomorrow to visit exhibitions. There is definitely an interest in contemporary art here. Several people came for the opening of Pattern, and I hope the exhibition will attract more visitors.

2. Installation view of Navjot Altaf: Pattern at Ishara Art Foundation, 2022. Image courtesy Ishara Art Foundation. Photo by Ismail Noor/Seeing Things. 

I.W: Could you tell me more about how you started your artistic practice?

N.A.: I was quite politically engaged when I started with my artistic practice in 1972, when India was politically charged. Student-led movements were taking place across the country. Through my partner – who’d just come back from England where he was part of a student organization – I came to know a student group in Bombay and became a member. We believed that India’s political system had to change. As a group, we participated in rallies in solidarity. We read books inspired by Marxist thought, like The Necessity of Art by Ernst Fischer. Marxism allowed me to think critically not only about art but also about artists and society. I understood that individuals can’t be isolated from the social system they are part of. Nothing is static. Everything moves. Change is inevitable.

Nothing is static. Everything moves. Change is inevitable.

In 1997, I relocated from Mumbai to Kondagaon, an indigenous area in central India. There, I saw a beautiful center opened by Indigenous artist Jaidev Baghel, who wanted to foster greater interaction between artists and the local community. When I was invited to write a proposal to experiment with artists from different cultural backgrounds, I asked artists at the center would be interested in doing a project together.

Over time, I interacted with local communities, including farmers, and educational institutions. I was intrigued by school teachers’ interest in inviting us to do workshops with schoolchildren. We did a few workshops on famine, which had driven up the price of rice that year. We asked, “Why does famine happen? Have you heard about the Chipko movement and its influence on other states, such as the Appiko Movement in the south?” They didn't know about these movements, as nobody had talked about them. Of course, no one had thought about making art about these movements. The outcome of the workshops was stimulating for all.

Staying in Bastar and seeing what was happening around, such as mining, made me more interested in environmental issues. The year I went had a drought, which yielded poor rice crops. People were suffering. Seeing problems like these got me deeply interested in the root causes of such situations. 

The energy of that place was very different. Our focus was also on travel within Bastar which exposed us to the infrastructure of that place. Gradually in the second year, we were interacting with community people outside the center and by the end of the year negotiated a strategy between us to collaborate with the people interested in working on site-specific projects at hand-pump sites where people of all age groups came to fetch water.  This was not work which is predecided and done in a studio and then brought out as a complete object. The significance of the work resides in the fact it was built with the people and for their use. Some artists and critics visited Bastar to see how the project was moving and there were new questions about collaboration and autonomy of the artworks, different modes, and what questions such collaborations raise.

3. Installation view of Navjot Altaf: Pattern at Ishara Art Foundation, 2022. Image courtesy Ishara Art Foundation. Photo by Ismail Noor/Seeing Things.

I.W.: Your work is also informed by feminist thought. Could you unpack the term for us and what it meant to be a feminist artist in India in the 70s and 80s?

N.A.: As a woman and an artist, I became conscious of gender issues in India. I observed how men and women were treated differently at workplaces in Bombay. In the art field, there was no discourse about women artists in the mid-70s. Most of the senior women artists didn’t want to recognize the difference between male and female artists. ‘Artists are artists. We are not women or men,’ was their argument.

In 1989, I was invited to curate a show for a festival called Expression that brought together women in theater, cinema, academia, and the art world. I was looking at how women who practiced art were doing so against all odds. Instead of selecting only the artists whose works were already being shown in galleries, I focused on women artists who hadn’t had much exposure to the public. I was criticized for that, but I believe I did the right thing.

Around the same time, I came across a book called Vision and Difference by art historian Griselda Pollock, which left a deep impression. I was also looking at all the social movements in India and understanding feminism through them. I learned from writings on women in Southeast Asia from an academic, historical point of view. I started thinking about what feminism meant in India, in the art world, and around the world. I also became increasingly interested in non-linear, non-patriarchal sources of knowledge, which nourished my thought and art practice.

It is very interesting to know that even though the term ‘feminism’ was coined in France in 1974, the Chipko Movement took place in India around the same time. Hundreds of women in Uttarakhand [state in northern India] protested against the forest department that wanted to cut trees. It was recognized as our first social and ecological movement much later.

4. Top: Reading Room in Navjot Altaf: Pattern at Ishara Art Foundation, 2022. Image courtesy Ishara Art Foundation. Photo by Ismail Noor/Seeing Things.
Bottom left: Documents and publications from the collections of Govind Kelkar and Vijay Kulkarni shown in Navjot Altaf: Pattern at Ishara Art Foundation, 2022. Image courtesy Ishara Art Foundation. Photo by Ismail Noor/Seeing Things.
Bottom right: Books from the personal archive of Navjot Altaf shown in Navjot Altaf: Pattern at Ishara Art Foundation, 2022. Image courtesy Ishara Art Foundation. Photo by Ismail Noor/Seeing Things.

I.W.: The reading room upstairs opens up opportunities for people to engage with the materials beyond a superficial level. I saw Donna Haraway’s Staying with the Trouble, and I am curious to hear your thoughts about her theories.

N.A.: In Bastar, I was reading a lot about ecofeminism, a natural progression of my practice. Going back to Haraway – thinking about the meaning of our inter-species world is how I accessed her writings. It made sense to me on a fundamental level. If we look at it, we are living in a multi-species world. During the pandemic, I was reflecting on the term “ecological democracy.” That we are inevitably linked to the planet, as compared to what we call “representative democracy”.

There was a farmer’s strike during COVID against the government for implementing laws that threatened to corporatize agriculture. What does it mean to be agreeing on that kind of social system where everything is slowly given to corporate systems? It is affecting the environment. The value of weeds and insects and how they contribute to our food production is a question related to environmental degradation. I’m in solidarity with everybody who is thinking about a multi-species world, and thinking about building another kind of social system, with alternative understandings of interrelationships or interdependency.

I’m in solidarity with everybody who is thinking about a multi-species world, and thinking about building another kind of social system, with alternative understandings of interrelationships or interdependency.

No matter where we are in the world today – I’m not only referring to India as a developing country– but also America, Australia, Canada, Europe – we see the effects of ecological crisis. The UAE is beautiful, but when I see these concrete buildings next to water bodies, I can imagine the after-effects. The groundwater level is reducing, and the temperature is increasing. We know this, so we are living today in a paradoxical world.

I.W. Pattern also shows your previous work about Manhattan. Could you tell us more about your views of New York?

N.A.: In New York, I was impressed with the functionality of our modernity and technology. But when you are in a city for a long time, you start to understand what lies beneath it. I then came across a book called Delirious New York written by architect Rem Koolhaas. The book detailed the history of building Manhattan: how colonizers came into this land, with plans of buildings even before arriving.

Personally, I admire the architecture of New York. Brooklyn Bridge, if you notice every twist of the barbed wire. It is so beautifully designed. It reflects what the human imagination can achieve. To pay tribute to the human mind and human achievement I did the intricate watercolors, though I had not been not painting since 1997.

But what does one do when one learns about New York producing more heat-trapping gasses than all of Central America and Mexico combined? Accelerating climate change?

I was thinking about how one could speak about heat-trapping gases. How does one show that through one’s work? I thought of climate change diagrams and superimposed them on the watercolors I painted of specific sites. What I found interesting was the language of diagrams. One has to learn to read them. I wanted to highlight it.

5. Navjot Altaf, Detail view of How Perfect Perfection Can Be (2015 - 2018). Watercolour drawing on Wasli paper and PVC on acrylic, 81.3 x 57.1 cm each. Image courtesy of Ishara Art Foundation and the artist. Photo by Ismail Noor/Seeing Things.

I.W.: I was wondering how the pandemic has affected your practice. While walking through the exhibition, I noticed your natural curiosity to understand the world around you. Even though our global post-internet community is getting more connected – we have developed this sort of empathy towards people who live in different geographic locations, and also to different species and to different environments – we also remain so alienated from faraway realities at the same time. I think the pandemic changed things a little bit however, it gave us time to reflect.

N.A: We saw during the pandemic how animals and birds started to reappear everywhere. Water was cleaner, and birds returned to our immediate environment, but what troubles me is that there was a forest fire in Australia, in the Amazon, in China, and in India. Why is it that we do not link all these fires together? People see linkages between other things. You see one has to understand development or progress in relation to its impact on the environment. 

As the pandemic started to unfold, nature started to tell us to slow down. The water told us that I can be cleaner again for you. The birds said that they could maybe return to your environment. What happened in the past few centuries is that we created an environment that frightened them. But now, we have the potential to go closer to the forest.

As the pandemic started to unfold, nature started to tell us to slow down.

I.W.: I was thinking about the word “imagination,” which you mentioned earlier. We often explain what is happening right now as a result of the failure of imagination. A failure for people to imagine different ways of living, to imagine our interconnectedness with different species. But at the same time, we are capable of imagining. Just look at all the architectural projects, the artistic interventions, happening all around the world today. As you said, they are the results of human imagination. What do you think is happening here? If imagination exists, what prevents us from imagining?

N.A.: I think it’s because humans have taken an ultimate position of control, in a very philosophical, fundamental sense when humans take up the position of the supreme, there is no fear left. For unseen invisible gods there is a kind of fear, that's why people have so many rituals. Forest god is worshipped for the fear of fire, whereas in the ancient text it is said that worship the forest. Forest is God. It contributes to the well-being of the entire planet and is home to diverse life forms.  But we have exceeded our limits. This thought goes back to this whole idea and our concerns for sustainability.

We see how intersections of local, regional, and national politics are entangled with the urgencies of development, and the power of national and global capital, which is an obsession with growth but not necessarily for all sections in mind.

I.W: Would you say that is what you are trying to pursue with your practice? To resist this notion of humans as the supreme?

N.A.: Well, we have to think about the consequences of our actions. Your generation, the generation younger than yours, or older – all of us are experiencing the consequences of what we are talking about. Are we not sensing it?

I think our capitalist economy has a very short-sighted vision. Apart from science, we can learn from some of the existing practices of some indigenous societies – when they made decisions, they thought seven generations ahead so that it also benefits their descendants. Why are we not thinking about future generations down the line?  

I.W.: Would you say your practice comes from the attitude of learning from nature?

N.A.: It comes from a learner’s attitude; I consciously want to understand the significance of the multi-species relationship. I think it is the need of our time. How do we relate to Nature? If I live in the city, for example, I will know what products and shops each mall has. Similarly, why am I not interested in understanding what soil exists around me, and what it is going to give me? How insects are participating in our environment?

If I live in the city, for example, I will know what products and shops each mall has. Similarly, why am I not interested in understanding what soil exists around me, and what it is going to give me?

6. Navjot Altaf, Installation view of Lost Text (2017 - 2018). 24 digital prints on canson platine fiber rag paper pasted on archival conservation board and PVC transfer on acrylic, 64.7 x 52.1 cm each. Shown in Navjot Altaf: Pattern at Ishara Art Foundation, 2022. Image courtesy of Ishara Art Foundation and the artist. Photo by Ismail Noor/Seeing Things.

I.W.: Considering your practice, which centers on climate change, ecology, and feminism, your work Lost Text stands out as something different. How did the work come about? How would you articulate its relationship to other works in this exhibition?

N.A.: Yes, the context is very different but it is still connected. Lost Texts project evolved from when I was transcribing, translating and editing my Bastar diaries. One day when I opened my computer, instead of my diaries I was shocked to see this corrupted text. I don't know how it happened. I was very disturbed. I tried to recover the text by following computer instructions but with no results. I could not read anything.

It converted the text into an arbitrary mix of numbers, alphabets, symbols, used and under-used punctuation marks  – but what I found very interesting was that even though the text structure was destroyed and it had lost its chronology, sequence and clarity, its disorganized fragmented patterns of words further broken by the computer’s selective memory, vocabulary and punctuation markings brought forth narratives out of its meant context or acted as clues to excavate the hidden meanings and created new meanings that were not intended in the first place. The highlighted words on each work are the word I spotted first with a changed meaning. For example, the word Impunity became Imp _>unity. [important unity].

This happens sometimes in the art-making processes, you don’t necessarily get what you set out to do. So through this text-based work, I play with the play of technology and play of memory to create new propositions. I lost my diary, but in the process, I received something which was not intended.

I lost my diary, but in the process, I received something which was not intended.

But since I used the photographs of ancient scriptures on stones for the background, taken by me over the years, which only experts can read, amusingly I thought maybe one day there will be experts to recover corrupted text like mine.

7. Navjot Altaf, Detail view of Lost Text - SEPARATION (2017). Digital print on canson platine fiber rag paper pasted on archival conservation board and PVC transfer on acrylic, 64.7 x 52.1 cm. Shown in Navjot Altaf: Pattern at Ishara Art Foundation, 2022. Image courtesy of Ishara Art Foundation and the artist. Photo by Ismail Noor/Seeing Things.

I.W.: I feel like this is an example of the saying “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade out of it.”

N.A.: Yes, sometimes you have to let in some fun, as life is serious.

I.W.: Final question as we conclude the conversation: What advice would you give to young artists today?

N.A.: I think experiencing life is very important. It is great to travel and interact with people in different locations. Allowing that kind of time to yourself is important.

Each place has its set of conditions and one learns to see the peculiarities, differences, and also similarities. You see the pandemic was faced in almost every part of the world yet your experience and my experience may differ - depending upon the kind of situations we were in or the facilities we had access to.

I am interested in wide-ranging awareness and prefer looking at things from far, from very close, and from in-between.

Navjot Altaf: Pattern ends today at Ishara Art Foundation, Dubai.

Insun Woo is an Editor at Global Art Daily and studies at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) where she is pursuing a BA in Art & Art History and a minor in Arabic. Her interest lies in contemporary art curation, arts education, and youth empowerment. Her current and past experience includes writing for Global Art Daily and Canvas Magazine, participating in the Summer College Workshop 2021 at the Guggenheim Museum, and interning at for- and non-profit organizations for the empowerment of youth.

About Navjot Altaf
Navjot Altaf was born in 1949 and currently lives and works between Mumbai and Bastar. Since the 1970s, her practice has negotiated various disciplinary boundaries involving painting, photography, sculpture, installation, video, site-specific works, research and activism.

Navjot has had solo exhibitions in institutions and galleries including the PAV Parco Arte Vivente (Turin), The Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum (Florida), Chemould Prescott Road Art Gallery (Mumbai) The Guild Gallery (Mumbai, Alibaug and New York), Talwar Gallery (New York and Delhi) and Sakshi Gallery (Mumbai). Her retrospective was held at the National Gallery of Modern Art (Mumbai) in 2018 curated by Nancy Adajania. She has also participated in various curated group shows around the world including the Tate Modern (London), House of World culture (Berlin), National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Korea), Newark Museum and Minneapolis Institute of Arts (USA), The Grand Curtis (Liège), and the Kiran Nader Museum of Art (New Delhi). Her work has been presented as part of the Curitiba Biennial, Yinchuan Biennale, Shanghai Biennale, Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Sydney-International festival of Contemporary Art Biennale, Havana Biennale and the first Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale. A number of her collaborative and site-specific projects can be found in Kondagaon, Chhattisgarh, India.

Navjot’s works are part of a number of public and private art collections including National Gallery of Modern Art (New Delhi and Mumbai), Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (New Delhi), Fukuoka Asian Art Museum (Fukuoka), Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto), PSA Museum of Contemporary Art (Shanghai), PAV- Parco Arte Vivente (Turin), RPG Collection (Mumbai) and The Ishara Art Foundation and The Prabhakar Collection (Dubai).

About Ishara Art Foundation
Ishara Art Foundation was founded in 2019 as a non-profit organisation dedicated to presenting contemporary art of South Asia. Located in Dubai, the Foundation supports emerging and established practices that advance critical dialogue and explore global interconnections.

Ishara Art Foundation is presented in partnership with Alserkal.

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