Amar Kanwar : Videos

When 9 Nov 2018

Amar Kanwar: The Lightening Testimonies & The Torn First Pages

Video still from The First Torn Pages, 2004-08.  Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery NY.

Now through April 24 2010

24 W57th St NY NY 10019
Tel. 212-977-7160

Press Release:

Born in 1964 in New Delhi where he lives and work, Kanwar has distinguished himself through films and multi-media works which explore the politics of power, violence, sexuality, and justice. His multi-layered installations originate in narratives often drawn from zones of conflict and are characterized by a distinctly poetic approach to the social and political. In retracing history through images, ritual objects, literature, poetry and song, Kanwar creates lyrical, meditative film essays that do not aim to represent trauma or political situations as much as to find ways through them. Kanwar’s work looks deeply into the causes and effects and how they are translated into everyday life and cultural forms.

The Torn First Pages (2004-2008), a 19-channel film installation in three parts that will be on view in the North Gallery, is presented in honor of the Burmese bookshop owner Ko Than Htay who was imprisoned for ‘tearing out the first page’ of all books and journals he sold and which contained ideological slogans from the Burmese military dictatorship. The Torn First Pages is also an ode to the thousands engaged in the struggle for democracy in Burma, following the paths of Burmese activism in exile. The films directly, elliptically and metaphorically encounter resistance and the struggle for a democratic society, contemporary forms of non violence, political exile, memory, and dislocation.

The Torn First Pages, jointly commissioned by TBA21, Vienna and Public Press, New Delhi, was previously exhibited in its completed form at Haus der Kunst, Munich, in the exhibition A Question of Evidence at TBA 21, Vienna and as a work in progress at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (in 2008). This is its first presentation in the U.S.

The 8-channel video installation The Lightning Testimonies (2007) will be presented in the South Gallery and reflects upon a history of conflict in the Indian subcontinent through experiences of sexual violence. “The Lightning Testimonies” creates an experience that emerges from a constellation of eight synchronized choreographed projections with sound tracks that lead to disparate narratives that then converge into a single projection. As the stories unfold, women from different times and regions come forward. The multiple projections speak to them directly, in an effort to understand how such violence is resisted, remembered and recorded by individuals and communities.

In this exploration, multiple stories are revealed, sometimes in people, images and memories, and at other times in objects from nature and everyday life that stand as silent but surviving witnesses. Submerged narratives appear, disappear and are then reborn in other permutations at another time. Using a range of visual vocabularies, The Lightning Testimonies transports us beyond the realm of suffering into a space of quiet contemplation, where resilience creates the potential for transformation. The work premiered at Documenta 12, Kassel (2007) and was seen in Reflexions on Contemporary India, Casa Encendida, Madrid (2008) and Indian Highways, Serpentine, London and Astrup Fernley, Oslo (in 2008-2009). This is its first presentation in New York. Lightning Testimonies was made with the support of the Ford Foundation, New Delhi; Documenta 12, Kassel, Germany; and Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna.

About the Artist:
Amar Kanwar is the recipient of the 1st Edward Munch Award for Contemporary Art, Norway (2005); an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts, Maine College of Art, Portland, ME; the MacArthur Fellowship in India, the Golden Gate Award, San Francisco International Film Festival.

Projects in 2010 include new Artists Cinema commission which will be launched at a special preview evening at Tate Modern on April 16th, 2010; a group exhibition Being Singular Plural: Moving Images from India, upcoming at the Deutsche Guggenheim Berlin in June; HEART Herning Museum of Contemporary Art, Herning, Denmark; Signs of Life, Kunstmuseum Luzern, Switzerland. His work is included in the current Contemplating the Void: Interventions in the Museum, Guggenheim Museum, New York.

Solo exhibitions of Kanwar’s work have been seen recently at: Film Huis den Haag, The Hague, Netherlands (2009); Haus der Kunst, Munich; Stedelijk, Amsterdam and Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands; Galerie Marian Goodman, Paris (all 2008); Whitechapel Art Gallery, London (2007);Apeejay Media Gallery, New Delhi (2007); National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Olso (2006); Fotogalleriet, Oslo (2005); The Renaissance Society, Chicago (2004); and Tensta Konsthall, Stockholm (2003).

For more information on Amar Kanwar, please visit