An odd case of collaboration

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KATHMANDU, Nov 19: It’s hardly unbelievable that Matteo Efrem Rossi, a gallery curator from Italy, discovered Nepali contemporary artist Bidhata KC through Facebook, the ubiquitous networking website. Matteo was on a quest to find an artist from Nepal for a solo exhibition commissioned to him by Blauer Hase, an art collective based in Venice.

“Matteo found me on Facebook sometime around Dashain (end of September), and I was so surprised,” said Bidhata, surrounded by her paintings in her studio at the Yala Maya Kendra in Patan. “I had listed my profession as a freelance artist, and that’s how he befriended me,” she continued.

Bidhata, 31, is most widely known for her paintings of leaves in the contemporary art arena of Nepal but has also worked on a few onsite installation pieces in the past.

Formed by Mario Ciaramitaro, Riccardo Giacconi, Giulia Marzin, and Daniele Zoico, the Blauer Hase , since its inception in 2007, has been focusing on new experimental art and its uses. Matteo was commissioned by Blauer Hase to curate the collective’s 11th Rodeo series project in January 2009 along with a set of rules.

“Each member of Blauer Hase picked a country from a pool, and what they all had in common were geographical and cultural differences in comparison to Europe,” explained Giulia, one of the founding members, through an email interview with Republica. The countries that the four chose were Cuba, Mauritania, Nepal, and New Zealand, out of which Matteo chose to work with Nepal. And thus his hunt on the Internet began.

“After Matteo and I became friends on Facebook, he told me about Blauer Hase’s projects and asked me about other Nepali artists as well,” said Bidhata and added, “He was looking for artworks besides paintings and sculptures because they would be too costly and cumbersome to transport.”

The two rules of Rodeo #11 were: a) Matteo wasn’t allowed to meet the artist until the opening of the exhibition, and b) the artist wasn’t allowed to enter the venue till then.

“I had an idea of an installation which I hadn’t been able to do in the past, and Matteo sent me some pictures of Atelier 7, the venue of the exhibition, to see if I could create it in the space there,” apprised Bidhata on Sunday, November 15 while finding some pictures on her computer.

Bidhata’s concept for her installation goes back to the first time she went trekking to Manang in 2006 as part of a painting workshop titled “Impressions of Manang.”

“During the five-daylong workshop, I noticed a lot of empty food cans disposed of along the way, and some of these cans had been reused to make prayer wheels by the locals,” explicated Bidhata and continued, “The way these containers had been transformed from their purpose of consumption to something religious and spiritual amazed me.”

The artist had wanted to create an installation piece back then, but the organizers of the workshop, Manang Youth Society, couldn’t grasp the concept of installation art and insisted on paintings. Bidhata is therefore fortunate to get an opportunity to create her installation, now titled “out of emptiness” after nearly three years, and that too in Italy. Nonetheless, she didn’t go to Italy herself because she wasn’t allowed to meet Matteo before the show.

The correspondence between the curator and the artist up until now has been limited to emails, and of course, Facebook.

“I emailed all my instructions to Matteo from the choice of material to the composition of my work, and therefore, the piece is made up of local materials found in Venice,” said Bidhata, who didn’t even get a peek into her work while it was being physically developed. “I’m very excited,” she said.

“Rodeo #11-20,66 mt S.L.M.” opened on Tuesday, November 17 at Atelier 7, Palazzo Carminati-Fondazione Bevilacqua la Masa in Santa Croce, Venice.

“The title of the exhibition stands for the Sea Level Measurement of the Atelier,” elucidated Bidhata. During the opening of the show, Blauer Hase posted a message on Bidhata’s Wall in Facebook—“It’s overcrowded!”

And for the first time, Bidhata received digital photographs of her work.

“Well, it isn’t quite as I expected in terms of execution since it’s been done by someone else. But it fits my original concept,” opined a not-too-thrilled Bidhata. Her installation is interactive, and onlookers can rotate the tin containers that she ordered to be displayed like prayer wheels.

Although Bidhata would’ve made some changes had she been there herself, local art critic Tommaso Zanini gives some insightful and positive remarks about “out of emptiness.” The following is an extract of Zanini’s observations;

“These tin cans offer themselves at the visitor’s hands and are an invitation to consider what is lined up every day on the supermarkets shelves. Once you concentrate on them, they’re free from the energies that instituted them as goods. The strength of their simple appearance involves the onlooker in an unusual aesthetic experience, from which, by contrast, the decisive role of movement is highlighted: only through a direct involvement is the visitor invited to reflect on the harmony that sustains the whole path, and on how much one’s own body is able to change the value of that which an everyday presence.”

“The main concept of the exhibition has to do with the relation that grows between artists and curator,” wrote Matteo to Republica, and furthered, “It was a really interesting experience and I hope that there’ll be other occasions to work with such method.”

It can well be taken as a rather odd case of collaboration between Matteo the curator and Bidhata the artist. But for once, Facebook has proven to be a rather useful tool.
Rodeo #11-20,88 mt. S.L.M. will remain open till November 23 at Atelier 7, Palazzo Carminati - Fondazione Bevilacqua la Masa, Santa Croce 1882/A, Venice.