Shunno / শূন্য / 0

In Bangla, ‘Shunno’ is both a word and number- an empty space, vacuum, black circle or zero vector, which starts and ends at the same place. With this special edition – Shunno (o), Chobi Mela raises essential questions about its own purpose. Shunno can be an amorphous infinite space, or a home that runs parallel with all others. Shunno is a pure matter-energy in philosophy, detached from a troubled force. After completing ten editions in two decades, Chobi Mela mounts a self-reflective edition, to rethink its relevance and ways of being after a global pandemic. Is art in any way relevant any more to a time of endless loss of life and livelihood?

Chobi Mela O invites artists and curators to create a space that will be a testimony to present time. This edition focuses on its home and the neighbourhood, South Asia at large, to find how regional artists and curators devise collective actions in overly divisive spaces. How art attempts to surmount the limits of present-day democracies with diversity, at a moment when citizens understand that states, left in the hands of exploitative forces, have failed in protecting their rights. How can we bring ‘performative democracy’ to the present time – so we can understand its value and experience its intensity in an art space?

While artists are situating their strategies in ‘new normal’ time, cyber spaces are increasingly present in curatorial practice and tactile forms are absent in viewing experience. Chobi Mela (O) combines virtual spaces with its newly constructed media footprint, DrikPath Bhobon–photography studio, library, classroom and multimedia archive transformed into pop-up exhibition spaces. The festival will integrate the physical with digital, and invite the overlap of the spaces in-between. This edition also looks beyond the recognised limits of each media, testing organic possibilities in a hyper-tech world with social-media radio projects and live-stream events.

The festival will highlight the spontaneous actions of critical citizenship and offer an emancipatory experience with an array of materials – photography narratives, mixed-media, archival documents, live performance – sensorial and articulate, intuitive and conceptual, testing and pushing the boundaries as a form of happening, without trying to overly define the assemblage.

Date: 12 – 21 February, 2021 Dhaka, Bangladesh