Installation, a relatively new genre of contemporary art, is practiced by postmodernist artists. The difference between installation art and sculpting or other traditional art forms is that it is a unified experience. From the 1960s, the creation of installations became a major feature in modern art. Contemporary Art: 1989 to the Present mentions that the late 1980s was marked by a severe recession and a subsequent art market crash, which led to a reawakening in the field of conceptual art, where art was focused on ideas, rather than objects.
In Bangladesh, the precursors were visible in the works of eminent artists such as Hamiduzzaman Khan and Kalidas Karmakar. Artist Mustafa Zaman suggests three forms of installation art form: image making, construction of sculptures with found objects or newly made objects and through conceptual and textual means. These are also mixed and matched to create a composite form of installations. He also mentions the site specific form, crediting it to Mahbubur Rahman and Tayeba Begum Lipi – the artist duo who practiced and propelled the form in the public sphere in Bangladesh.
Among the recent practitioners, Kamruzzaman Shadhin often creates his signature mammoth projects through public participation and exhibits them in public spaces. He is inspired by artists Ashok Karmakar and Mahbubur Rahman. Shadhin learned that any material can be turned into an art piece, from the works of Japanese artists at the Asian Art Biennale in the nineties. "I also feel that their form of art was never foreign to Bengal – is instilled in our culture. We just did not call it art," adds the artist. He is also fascinated by the gigantic figure of Swami Vivekananda at Kanyakumari. "The story behind the structure is important. How you see it is crucial," he says. His award-winning work, Elephant in the Room (2018)was created in collaboration with craftsmen from the Kutupalong-Balukhali camp. It shelters more than 600,000 people and lies along one of the main migratory routes of critically endangered Asian elephants. Shadhin further shares the lessons he has learned in this time of crisis. "I have learnt to care less about the rat race. I'm not sure if the feeling will remain intact, but the prolonged time to think is something I'm enjoying," he says.
On the other hand, Najmun Nahar Keya draws her inspiration from the rapid social, economic and environmental changes happening in the area, as a result of urbanisation. Her practice revolves around the relationship between human behavior and society. She spent five years in Tokyo for her education. Keya amalgamates Japanese technique with strong Bengali concepts. She employs old photographs, gold gilding, drawing and printmaking in her works. In the last Dhaka Art Summit, her work, The Spell Song, was lauded by audiences. The work was comprised of a hand woven Tangail Sari molded into Bangla folk sayings to KhonarBochon. To Keya, installation art is site specific. "It is important to blend the work with the environment it is placed in," she says. During this pandemic, Keya has turned to drawing as a meditative practice and she also plans to work on some animation projects.
Movements like the Happening Movement, Fluxus and Arte Povera inspired Abir Shome to take up installation art. He also works with drawings, texts, videos and digital art. "A friend of mine did some installation works while we were students of Charukola," he says. "I wasn't initially drawn to it but as I became more familiar with the concept, I wanted to practice it." Majority of his works question ideology and power, delivered in seemingly imprudent manners.
Through his work, Capital-Equal in Chobi Mela IX, he highlighted how texts, objects, photographs and drawings together were made to conspire against the prescribed art revolution society. Installation art is a form of relief for Abir. These days, the artist spends most of his time playing his ukulele at home.
On the other hand, artist Eshita Mitra Tonni's practice is comprised of different disciplines of printmaking, photography, videography and sculpting. The artist, who resides in Jamalpur, uses found objects and children's playing materials. She sets these objects into seemingly mythological characters for her striking art projects. "The fork I use in my sculpture work loses its cutlery feature and becomes something else," she explains. She also enjoys teaching children about art.