“Justice, sovereignty and self-determination” – weighty matters for any artist, but then Amar Kanwar isn’t one to shy away from the big issues, and that’s part of the reason he’s become one of India’s most critically acclaimed artists. The Delhi-born talent was speaking about his multimedia installation The Sovereign Forest, first shown at Germany’s Documenta 13 arts festival eight years ago, yet the work feels as pertinent and original as ever, in the UAE in 2020.
On display at the NYUAD art gallery until 30 May, The Sovereign Forest combines moving and still images, music and handmade books embedded with “evidence” (a fishing net, rice seeds, a betel leaf). Under the umbrella of concerns regarding crime, politics and ecology, it dwells especially on the impact of mining on the communities and landscapes of Odisha, where industry has contributed to both environmental and rights crises in the eastern Indian state.
“It’s a unique privilege to host his thought-provoking and critically important work,” says Maya Allison, executive director of the NYUAD gallery. “The Sovereign Forest is, in many ways, a ‘living’ artwork, one that continues to grow and shift with each installation, as do the questions it brings to light.”