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.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Friday - A day of rest for Muslims and a trip to Old Dhaka

Saw and spoke with Seth on skype last night for the first time which was wonderful, it was good to hear his voice and see him too.

I feel deprived of sleep at the moment. I am tired at around 7pm Bangladesh time, then wide awake between 10 – 12pm. I seem to wake at 4-5 in the morning. Feels like my body clock is running on a mix of UK and Bangladesh time. Its impossible to try to sleep during the day the noise is overwhelming. Yesterday I was suddenly conscious of how the high noise levels were affecting me. When walking through town I was conscious that I was rushing because of the loudness of the street.

Having struggled to sleep this morning I decided to start to record the sounds I hear. The crows start first, then the occasional street sellers calling, beggars calling for alms, the swish of the reed brushes sweeping across the pavements. The tinkle of the rickshaws and the honking of horns all start off gently and slowly building to a constant fill of shifting pockets of sound from across the city.

I was going to go back to the museum today to draw but Owen suggested a trip to Old Dhaka to see where the Britto 1 mile sq project took place. He had shown us images of the area, the old Portugese, Armenian, British and French houses and the spice warehouses. The place would be quieter on Fridays, so we decided to go to Shakhar bazar and start at Hindu street make our way along the bazaars, to the river and the spice warehouses and then up to 'Beauty Boarding' for lunch and to see the historic gateway that Mahbub had used for his film 'The City Gate'.

The place was a labyrinth of shops and stalls demonstrating different wares, crafts and skills. Interestingly the streets in Old Dhaka echoed what happens across the whole city, different areas specialize in specific tasks, products or crafts; parts of the city specialize in cycles, some in recycling, metalworking, jewellery and goldsmithing, truck and car parts, basketry etc etc…. The day in Old Dhaka was a visual feast.

Took a CNG to Shakhar Bazar. Owen negotiated with the driver…. For him to use the meter would cost us an additional 30Tk (80Tk). All the motor rickshaws in Dhaka city used to run two stroke petrol engines but they have been replaced by the CNG (Natural Gas) rickshaws to reduce the pollution levels.

The CNG’s are caged, I was unclear if this protection was for the interests of the passengers or the driver. I think that there it would be interesting to see how good CNG drivers are at the computer games Seth plays, their sense of space and timing is quiet special, I have only seen 1 accident since I have been here although the daily death toll in the Dhaka district is apparently high (mostly when people get onto or off of the buses, which never stop completely nor pull over to the side of the road).

' Riding in a CNG Rickshaw'

This was the metal repair man, who had set up shop outside Shakhar Bazar, I was draw to the silver (plastic) sticks which he melted with the heat from the flame. They filled the holes in the predrilled sheet of steel which he used to demonstrate how his product worked.

Hindu street

Boys outside a Kite shop, wanting to have their photo taken.

This man made wedding braclets from shell. The shells are sliced into rings, then filed to produce intricate designs. I liked the wooden rest that he works on- it reminded me of a jewellers bench peg. Used to support the work, it was held together with string. A very dusty job.

A simple shop/ workshop which made and sold wedding decorations and wedding hats made from ‘Schola’, a light weight wood sometimes called' Pith'. The limited space means that the work each shop does is very specialized, using limited resources, tools and materials.

I was interested in the way the hats were made, I had seen some less glitzy examples in the museum and liked the way the fins of material created form – a bit like Anthony Gormleys ‘Angel of the North’. I also liked the matt-ness of the material. There was a special quality to the stencils they used too.