Making Space:Sensing Place

In October 2009, along with artist Thurle Wright, I was awarded a Making Space:Sensing Place Fellowship; part of the HAT: Here and There International Exchange Programme, managed by A Fine Line:Cultural Practice. The Fellowship includes residencies with Britto Arts in Dhaka, Bangladesh, with Arts Reverie in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, with The V&A Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green, London and with The Harley Gallery, Nottinghamshire. Working and collaborating with artists and craftspeople from the UK, Bangladesh and India, responding to the collections and spaces we encounter and sharing these experiences through a touring exhibition and educational workshops.

This blog, which is still developing and being added to, is a record of my experiences during the MS:SP Fellowship. Steven Follen.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Rickshaw ride

Typed up some notes and then walked our way to the north of the area called Dhamondi. Visited Gallery Drik, a photo gallery and commercial photo-library showing the work of Bangladeshi photographers. Pursued by a young man, desperate to sell a book about ‘The magical wonders of the world’ I declined whilst he continued to assure me that I was missing a great opportunity!

Visited The Bengal Foundation Gallery of Fine Arts and viewed the exhibition ‘A Pilgrimage for Peace’, work by Kazi Giyasuddin. Beautiful blues and detailed, intricate surfaces built up of layers of images, each almost hidden beneath the other. The images reminded me of looking down from an aeroplane, at a landscape, through clouds. Watching as it faded out of view then reappears.

We also made a brief visited to Aarong, a crafts retail outlet which sells items from across Bangladesh. There were some beautiful textiles, with stunning colours and detaling. Head is still swimming from the time change and I'm getting frustrated at not being able to absorb what I am experiencing visually and make decisions about what I see.

Took my first rickshaw journey, from the Aarong down to Hatirpul (Elephant Bridge). I understand that the drivers don’t own their own rickshaws, they rent them from a company each day approx 80tk), the cost being based on the quality of the rickshaw.

After negotiating a price it was clear that I should have checked that both the driver and the rickshaw were up to the job. As the wheels on my side wobbled with the weight and the driver struggled with the clunking peddles of his tired machine I began to wonder if I might have been better to walk. The rickshaws are surprisingly high and as we began to gather a pace the journey became a scary delight, nervous laughter took over and images of fair ground roller coaster rides came to mind as I held on for dear life as the rickshaw either swerved to avoid the potholes or hit them full on - they have limited suspension. Moving through the traffic on the rickshaw was great, for what seemed like the first time, with hands firmly clamped onto the shaking machine, I was able to actually look. The height allows you to see much more, without the worry of what you might be stepping on or into. (The pavements are not the best kept areas, open sewers run alongside them, often they are ‘uneven’ with giant holes and broken concrete slabs tilted at odd angles to catch the unwary). There was one near miss on the rickshaw as we approached a junction - the driver had decided that he wanted to keep the ricksaw moving, rather than break and have to go from a standing start. We swung from a minor road into a bigger line of traffic with the persuasive force of a truck or a bus – which we were clearly not!