On YNF Entertainment Magazine, “the best entertainment magazine in the UK“, the large scale installation by Pritika Chowdhry titled Silent Waters: The Uncounted is included in the Weisman Art Museum’s Ebb/Flow exhibit.
The Chicago artist Pritika Chowdhry, Chotsani Elaine Dean, and Courtney M. Leonard, three American artists of diverse heritage who address the historical and contemporary effects of colonialism from three distinct cultures—South Asian, African American, and Native American—are featured in the current exhibition titled Ebb/Flow, which will be on display at the Weisman Art Museum until October 29th, 2023.
The exhibition’s title, Ebb/Flow, refers to a recurrent or rhythmical pattern of coming and going, or decline and regrowth. Ebbing and flowing also refers to the often violent dynamism and unpredictability of emotional and natural reality, which has multiple meanings.
The exhibition is one of a kind because it brings together the historical and contemporary perspectives of three artists whose family history has been greatly influenced by colonialism’s destructive legacy. The upheaval and human cost of India’s 1947 partition are contemplated poetically in this work by Chowdhry. Dean considers the mental and physical labor of free and enslaved African Americans. Leonard responds to the alterations brought on by outside occupation and settlement to indigenous environments and ways of life.
The multimedia installation Ebb/Flow goes beyond the boundaries of traditional studio ceramics, sculpture, and conceptual and political art to deepen access to and investigate sites of cultural and historical change. It also broadens the material and subject range of the notable ceramics and American art collections owned by the Weisman. As a result, the Weisman proudly presents this work to inspire discussion and reflection on some of the most pressing issues of our time.
Silent Waters: The Uncounted
The large scale installation by Pritika Chowdhry titled “Silent Waters: The Uncounted” depicts dozens of ceramic feet that have been severed above the ankle and are treading toward one another, but the space is forever divided by a sharp line. The division of a nation whose people were once united is referred to as the state of separation. The line is a nod to the Radcliffe line, which in 1947 divided India and became the new western border with Pakistan, forcing millions of Indians, including Chowdhry’s ancestors, to flee their homes.
For this exhibition, Silent Waters: The Uncounted, which was previously exhibited in 2009 at the Weisman Museum of Art in Minneapolis, is presented in a new format on a raised platform. The installation’s triangular space is encapsulated by two 16-foot-tall diagonal walls as a static boundary. On either side of the border, facing one another, are one hundred and one large ceramic feet. Through the middle, the Radcliffe line veers off course.
A minimalist background soundscape that echoes the sounds of rain falling, running feet, and a human body hitting a body of water is played in conjunction with the installation. Chowdhry physically transports the viewer into the installation with the pervasive sounds, assisting them in being present with this difficult history. The dialogue with the African American and Native American colonial histories that are shared is clear when the three works are placed in the same context as the two works by Dean and Leonard.
The frenzied migration that occurred following India’s partition in 1947 is referenced in the installation by Chowdhry. Twenty million people crossed the brand-new border as Muslims rushed to Pakistan, which had just been created, and Hindus rushed to India, which had a majority of Hindus. This was the largest migration ever recorded in history.
In addition, the stampede sparked the worst communal riots in the South Asian subcontinent’s history, which resulted in over 2 million deaths. The approximately 300,000 cases of abduction and rape of Muslim, Sikh, Bengali, and Hindu women are less well-known.
The Weisman Art Museum’s exhibition Ebb/Flow is related to Chowdhry’s solo exhibition Unbearable Memories, Unspeakable Histories: Anti-Memorial Partition Project (from August 6 to December 10, 2022) The exhibition’s title refers to the harrowing and silenced accounts of the 1947 Partition of India that have not been included in mainstream discourses. The 75th anniversary of India and Pakistan’s partition is commemorated in both the Weisman and the South Asia Institute exhibitions.
Chowdhry’s ongoing research-based project, the Partition Anti-Memorial Project, was launched on the 60th anniversary of the Partition in 2007. It uses subjugated knowledge about the 1947 Partition of India and the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War to create a number of experiential art installations that serve as temporary anti-memorials to the Partition.
Pritika Chowdhry has created ten bodies of work over the past 15 years that take a counter-memory approach and look at the many aspects of the India Partition. Her anti-memorials use the dual lenses of South Asian diasporic post-memory to create alternative ways to remember and memorialize traumatic geopolitical events. Her works highlight generational resilience and resistance by evoking corporeal bodies through a variety of materials.
Feminist and post-colonial feminist artist, curator, and writer Pritika Chowdhry has work in both public and private collections. Her work memorializes unbearable memories through site-sensitive installations and large-scale sculptures that make reference to the body. Chowdhry has dedicated her artistic practice to responding to the violence of imperialism and colonialism alongside global acts of resistance after witnessing the effects of geopolitical trauma on generations.
Chowdhry’s anti-memorials seek to contextualize the global repercussions of Partition and highlight historically marginalized female voices in the representation of the event. Her sculptural art installations and anti-memorials, which are transnational in scope and serve as places of mourning, remembrance, and restoration, bear witness to partitions of nations, civil and military wars, riots, border violence, genocides, and terrorist attacks. Chowdhry has participated in numerous group and solo exhibitions both nationally and internationally, including those at the Weisman Art Museum, the Queens Museum, the Hunterdon Museum, the Islip Art Museum, the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, DoVA Temporary, the Brodsky Center, and the Cambridge Art Gallery.
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Learn more about Pritika Chowdhry’s art practice at her website and blog https://www.pritikachowdhry.com.