Amar Kanwar Devises Experiments to ‘Put a Finger on the Pulse of Time’


Kochi:  Acclaimed filmmaker and artist Amar Kanwar, whose documentaries have been shown across the world in museums and galleries, has a pet passion – a series of experiments devised over a period of time, which makes it easier to comprehend the unknown, to understand the passage of time and how time changes.

In a ‘Let’s Talk’ session at the ongoing third edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB), Kanwar detailed seven ways through which he negotiates the intangible, which manifests sometimes as a fleeting glance between two people, sometimes as the overwhelming sorrow of a large group of silent protestors or sometimes in the brutality of rioters.

“I simply had to find a way to navigate, and try and figure out these unknowns,” Kanwar said.

The lecture was delivered at Biennale Pavilion in Cabral Yard, Fort Kochi – one of the 12 venues of the ongoing arts extravaganza.

Among the seven experiments conducted by the 52-year-old Delhi-based video artist, considered among the best in the country, is one which deals with the question of time. Specifically, what would happen if one were able to express time in multiplicities? What if one could look backward and forward at once? Would that impact in a way one’s ability to comprehend events?

Just like the weatherman makes meteorological predictions using a wide range of data collated over five or 10 years and an economist could use data to make predictions about financial prospects, Kanwar said poetry could possibly enable him to “put a finger on the pulse of the passage of time even momentarily and thereby, help him understand how change occurs”.

“I thought to myself, ‘If I can relate to, understand, experience  poetry collected over a period of time across regions and over a period of time, I could perhaps predict the passage of time’,” Kanwar said.

Kanwar, who combines documentary films, poetic travelogues and visual essays in his works,  has been included in both Documenta XI (2002) and XII (2007), and has exhibited in group and solo exhibitions in Europe, America and India. Besides exhibiting in the first edition of the Biennale in 2012, he presented at the Sydney Biennale in 2006.

Some of his acclaimed installations include ‘The Torn First Pages’ (2004), ‘The Lightning Testimonies’ (2007) and ‘The Sovereign Forest’ (2011).