Life Lessons #9: Shahidul Alam & Donna Miranda | Art and Action

Organised as part of AAA’s twentieth anniversary, Life Lessons is a series that enquires into models for education led by artists. We ask: What was the most influential lesson they learned in school? And how have they, in turn, passed on what they learned about forms of knowledge and care to their students or communities of learners?

Launched in spring 2020, Life Lessons presents online and offline conversations and workshops with artists and art collectives who teach at universities, build educational programmes at arts organisations, and run their own schools. Each session addresses their unique teaching methods.

The ninth session invites Shahidul Alam and Donna Miranda to discuss the relationship between art and action. They will reflect on the significance of photography, choreography, and education in their endeavours to envision systemic change, build institutions, and fight for social and economic equality.

Named a Time Person of the Year in 2018, Shahidul Alam will discuss Drik Picture Library, which he co-founded in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in 1989. Referring to the Sanskrit word for “vision,” Drik was built on Alam’s understanding of the power of photography to shape perception and reality, and for people in what he calls the “Majority World” to reimagine and advocate for equitable positions. He will speak about the educational impact of Drik with regards to social issues and human rights, as well as two other organisations that he founded: the photography academy Pathshala South Asian Media Institute in 1998, and Chobi Mela, the first international photography festival in Asia, in 2000.

Choreographer and activist Donna Miranda will discuss her 2019 project Scores for National Democracy, presented at Maxim Gorki Theater’s 4th Berliner Herbstsalon. The project is an archive of resources she has been exposed to as an activist of the legal mass movement for national democracy in the Philippines. The project highlights educational documents and visual material from the legal mass movement and the revolutionary underground over the last five decades, as well as Miranda’s mapping of extrajudicial killings of peasants under the current Duterte regime. She will discuss how the documents can serve as choreography scores that can reorganise and redistribute movement for democratic revolution.

This series is part of AAA’s ongoing research about the role of academic and alternative pedagogy in the development of modern and contemporary art in Asia and beyond.

Shahidul Alam is a photographer, writer, and curator based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He obtained a PhD in chemistry before switching to photography. Alam’s work has been exhibited in prestigious galleries worldwide. He has chaired the international jury of World Press Photo. John Morris, the former picture editor of Life Magazine, described Alam’s book My Journey as a Witness as “the most important book ever written by a photographer.” Alam founded the Drik Photo Agency, the Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, and the Chobi Mela festival of photography. A new media pioneer, Alam introduced email to Bangladesh in the early nineties. He was arrested and tortured in 2018 for criticising his government, and spent 107 days in jail before being released on bail following a massive global campaign.

Donna Miranda is a choreographer living and working in the Philippines. Miranda relocates choreography from the site of the individual body to that of collective political actions. She works as a freelance consultant for international development organisations in the fields of gender justice, public health, and disaster risk reduction. She also does volunteer work for the Federation of Agricultural Workers in the Philippines, an affiliate organisation of the Peasant Movement of the Philippines.

Moderator: Chuong-Ðài Võ, Researcher, Asia Art Archive

 

This event is part of the AAA Learning and Participation Programme, supported by the S. H. Ho Foundation Limited and C. K. and Kay Ho Foundation.

 

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