CO-OP Insights: Britto Arts Trust

by Unseen June 24 2017

In the lead up to Unseen Amsterdam we are proud to introduce our new programme element, CO-OP. Unseen CO-OP will house thirteen pioneering collectives in the Transformatorhuis at the Westergasfabriek. Bringing together these working collectives in an immersive space, where ideas and creativity can be exchanged alongside a wealth of opportunities to experience and present new commercial formats.

In this series of interviews we get to know each of the collectives, to get a better insight into their missions, goals and what they will have in store for us at Unseen CO-OP 2017. This week we’re thrilled to introduce you to the collective Britto Arts Trust (BL), a ground-breaking and sustainable hub for creative and interdisciplinary artworks in Bangladesh.

Britto Arts Trust launched into the Bangladesh art scene in 2002 taking the lead as the first autonomous non-profit art organisation in the country. In 2011 they were part of the first Bangladesh National Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale, positioning themselves internationally. Founded by independent artists such as Mahbubur Rahman, Tayeba Begum Lipi, Imran Hossain Piplu, Kabir Ahmed Masum Chisty, Shishir Bhattacharya and Salauddin Khan Srabon, Britto supports artists from all over the country and abroad.

What is the main reason you formed the collective?
When we started it was difficult for artists to get their independent artistic voice heard due to the standardised governmental programme in Bangladesh. We decided to build the trust to develop new dynamics for art practitioners and to promote interdisciplinary approaches to visual arts. The art scene in Bangladesh is very hard to penetrate with limited funding opportunities. With the support from local and international networks we seek funding from various organisations around the world. We wanted to create a visual art hub where artists could experiment and create innovative work that challenges the art scene of Bangladesh. More recently we are trying to fund the trust with more of an inventive approach to ensure a promising and sustainable future for planning and activity.

Seed shall set you free, 2017? © Munem Wasif:Britto Arts Trust_0.jpgSeed shall set you free, 2017 © Munem Wasif/Britto Arts Trust

You state that for the Trust, collectivism stands for community. How have you engaged with these communities in the last 15 years as a collective?
We have worked on multi layered storytelling projects, that give an inside view into the Bangladeshi community. Projects we have worked on include 1mile² Dhaka 2014, where Britto collaborated with local communities mapping their neighbourhood, bringing together social and environmental sustainability through education. We have also worked with several ethnic groups living in the remote areas of Bangladesh, offering workshops where participants alongside the Trust were able to combine art with social action. In 2014, we organised the exhibition No Man’s Land, in collaboration with Shelter Promotion Council, at the border of India and Bangladesh. This was a meeting point where artists from both countries could meet without a passport and visa. Throughout the years we have engaged and supported communities as well as working with various institutions and organisations to give Bangladesh the artistic voice that it truly deserves.

Memoir copy_0.jpgMemoir, XXX © Najmun Nahar Keya/Britto Arts Trust

Could you give us an insight into what you have in store for Unseen CO-OP 2017?
For Unseen CO-OP, we will be showing the work of Bangladeshi artists such as Manir Mrittik, Shimul Saha, Najmun Nahar Keya, Munem Wasif and Molla Sagar. Delivering new perspectives and approaches to the Bangladeshi art world, each member of the collective has conducted research highlighting specific thematic subjects in Bangladesh. With a variety of approaches, the authors have delved into their subject matter in innovative and thought provoking ways. Ranging from autobiographical approaches created by Najmun Nahar Keya whose project dissects family photographs revealing personal events, to a fine art outlook from Munem Wasif who studies the movement of agriculture in Bangladesh, the authors have investigated their subjects in alternative ways to bring Bangladesh to the forefront of contemporary art initiatives. We look forward to experimenting and showcasing these works through new commercial formats at Unseen CO-OP 2017.