Release of 31.01.2019
The Scene of the Crime, 2011
Single-channel video installation, color, sound 42 min
Overall dimensions variable
Co-commissioned by Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, supported by the Centre Pompidou
Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Collection
Video still: Courtesy the artist | Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris & New York
The Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza and Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) present The Lightning Testimonies and The Sovereign Forest by Amar Kanwar, two major installation works by an artist whose practice is defined by the gathering of testimony of India’s most vulnerable populations. Co-commissioned by TBA21, both works explore notions of justice and the way it is applied to individual actions, to laws, and to public policies—topics that are especially relevant in today’s climate of fake news and fabricated narratives. Curated by Chus Martinez, and opening to the public on February 27, 2019, to coincide with ARCO Madrid, The Sovereign Forest and The Lightning Testimonies is part of an expanding collaboration between the museum and TBA21, founded by Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza, daughter of Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza. The presentation will remain on view through May 19, 2019.
The Lightning Testimonies is a multi-channel video installation that reflects upon a history of conflict in the Indian subcontinent through the often repressed, always sensitive, and newly urgent subject of sexual violence against women. The work confronts visitors with accounts of victims of wide-scale abduction and rape during the Indian partition in 1947 and the anti-rape demonstrations in Manipur in 2004. As a montage of simultaneous accounts, each projection features a different woman recounting a multi-layered memory of trauma and resilience, revealing multiple submerged narratives, at times through people, images and memories and, at other times, through objects from nature and everyday life that stand in silent witness. As relevant as the day it was conceived, the worktransports visitors beyond the realm of suffering into a space of quiet contemplation, where resilience creates the potential for transformation in a world marked by a continued struggle for women’s rights and dignity. The Lightning Testimonies was co-produced by TBA21 and Public Press, and premiered at documenta 12 in 2007.
The Sovereign Forest is an ongoing investigative project initiated in 2010 that arises from the conflict in Odisha in eastern India between local communities, the government, and businesses over the control of the land, forests, rivers and minerals, which has resulted in the forced displacement of indigenous communities, farmers and fishermen and generated a climate of violence. Presented as an archive of films, books, photographs and documents, the work provides multiple ways to enter and become immersed in the social, moral, economic, and political issues specific to Odisha yet faced today by many communities across the globe.
Developed in collaboration with the activist Sudhir Pattnaik and documentary filmmaker Sherna Dastur, The Sovereign Forest opened to the public in 2012 on the Samadrusti campus in Bhubaneswar (Odisha) as a semi-permanent installation. Numerous visitors shared their viewpoints and ideas, in some cases providing further proof and evidence, highlighting that The Sovereign Forest is a constantly expanding project. Since then, it has been presented as part of documenta 13 in the Natural History Museum in Kassel (Germany); a cement hut in Bhubaneswar (Odisha); a granary on the estate of a ruined colonial mansion in Kochi for the Kochi-Muziris Biennial (Kerala, India); an empty bank building in Sharjah for the Sharjah Biennial (UAE); the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (UK); and TBA21–Augarten in Vienna (AU).
“In keeping with the spirit and philosophy of TBA21, the Amar Kanwar installations invite visitors to re-examine their value system through the lens of art. The works presented at the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza provide a sharpfocus on such issues as social justice and environmental degradation through the poetry of interpretation and real life,” stated Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza, founder of TBA21. “The TBA21 Collection is distinguished by works that convey a sense of the current social and political obligations that we face, both as individuals and as citizens of a world in transformation. Art is at the epicentre of Madrid life, and this is where these works can truly resonate.”
“Francesca is a collector of conscience, supporting artists in the production of their work and its public presentation – and, in doing so, as an advocate for the pressing issues they bring to light,” stated Guillermo Solana, Artistic Director of the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza. “This exhibition catalyzes a dynamic dialogue between historical and contemporary art that enables the public to experience works that may appear vastly different, but explore many of the same questions shared by different generations of collectors coming from the same family,” he added.
“Both The Sovereign Forest and The Lightning Testimonies are as poignant as they are timely, giving voice to those who don’t have one and seeking justice where justice is hard to find,” stated Martinez. “In Kanwar’s works, justice is a virtue, a trait that defines the relationships we build, and a duty that compels us towards life.”
The exhibition will be accompanied by a range of public programs, free and open to the public, which will take place throughout the duration of the exhibition.
The first event, on Tuesday, February 26, will be an artist talk, with Amar Kanwar and curator Chus Martínez, introduced by Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza. The program starts at 19:00 in the Museum’s Auditorium. This event is free and open to the public.Seating is limited so please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org
Additional events will be announced shortly.
Amar Kanwar’s work focuses on such issues as nationalism, politics, justice, power, violence and sexual abuse in the Indian subcontinent. His installations are complex narratives connecting personal histories with broader social and political processes, associating legends and ritual objects with present-day symbols and events. He has had solo exhibitions at the Tate Modern, Stedelijk Museum, and Haus der Kunst, among others, and participated in documenta Kassel (Germany) in 2002, 2007, 2012 and 2017.
Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21)
Founded by Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza, TBA21 is a catalyst and partner in the creation of pivotal works by emerging and established artists from around the world. The non-profit foundation is distinguished by its commitment to works of social practice that negotiate urgent socio-political and environmental issues and pursue new lines of inquiry across disciplines. TBA21 builds upon a deep history of art patronage that extends back generations in the Thyssen family. Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza’s father, Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, is the founder of Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza, to which the heirs of the late Baron contributed.
Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza
The Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection is one of the most important private collections of paintings of the 20thcentury and its history is a fascinating one. Although originally a private collection, today it belongs to the Spanish public after its acquisition by the government in 1993, just a year after the museum was opened. Dürer, Rafael, Titian, Rubens, Rembrandt, Caravaggio, Manet, Renoir, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Kandinsky, Picasso, Hopper, Rothko. This is just part of the impressive list of great names that make up this collection, the work of just two generations. All the artistic movements of Western art from the 13th to 20th centuries are included in the collection, highlighting the exquisite taste of Baron Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza (1875-1947) and of his son Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza (1921-2002).