Indian artist Amar Kanwar is presenting two parallel shows, ‘Such A Morning’ at Ishara Art Foundation in Dubai and ‘The Sovereign Forest’ at The NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery.

The artist’s films and installations in the shows explore in a quiet, poetic way the nature of the many darknesses in our world and question our notions of crime, grieving, injustice and compassion looking for new positions from which to comprehend and respond.

The works are particularly relevant during this pandemic that is forcing us to isolate, introspect and question our way of life and our idea of normality.



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Detail from Amar Kanwar, “The Sovereign Forest” (2012-2017). Photo: John Varghese, courtesy of The NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery

‘Such A Morning’ is a feature-length film that contemplates themes of survival, perseverance, and freedom. It tells the story of two fictional characters who grapple with the complex challenges of our times in different ways.

One is an ageing mathematics professor who withdraws from the world and goes off into the wilderness to live in an abandoned train carriage. There he embarks on a sensory journey into a new plane of emotional resonance between the self and the world around him. Covering the windows to keep out the light he embraces and explores the darkness, recording his epiphanies and hallucinations in an Almanac of the Dark, featuring an examination of 49 types of darkness, of which 21 are within.

He later shares his realisations with his students and colleagues through letters emphasising the need to change our ways of learning to avoid a path of self-destruction.

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Installation view: Amar Kanwar: Such a Morning, Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, 2018 Photo: Cathy Carver

In stark contrast, the other character is a woman who defiantly guards her home sitting all day in a chair with a rifle in her hand. Yet, she is blind to the people ripping the walls apart and seems powerless as her house collapses around her in broad daylight and simply walks away. The narrative continues beyond the film with an installation of letters, presented as texts, film and light projections on handmade paper representing the professor’s ongoing research.