In collaboration with the renowned Whitechapel Gallery in London, the Kunstmuseum Bern
is presenting the first retrospective on British photographer, filmmaker, and installation artist Zarina Bhimji. With a criticism marked by gentleness and a poetic touch, Zarina Bhimji tackles the complex subjects of migration, globalization, and post-colonial history.
The artist was born in 1963 as daughter to parents of Indian descent living in Uganda, where she grew up until Idi Amins expulsion of the countrys Indian minority. Zarina Bhimji completed her art studies in London. She has been invited to participate in many international group exhibitions and was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2007.
A poetic search for traces of the past
Zarina Bhimjis work is strongly marked by her personal experiences of exile and her diverse cultural background. Her poetic films and photographs are documents of her search for traces of the past. The artist constructs fragmented narratives by interweaving personal experience and intuition with facts concerning the countries of her origins and their post-colonial history. In doing so, she formulates a subjective view of the present situation in three continents (Europe, Africa, Asia) and unveils the complex entwinement of culture, ethnicity, and politics. In her art, Bhimji does not articulate her bonds to Africa, India, and Europe by way of accusations, political analyses, or blame. Instead she engages with locations and landscapes related to her background while exploring their beauties.
Emotional honing in on truth
Bhimji addresses history and truth via poetry and beauty. The artist explains that her emphatically poetic approach is due to her skepticism toward documentary coverage as a medium for finding truth. As Bhimji says herself, she strives to express emotional states in visual language. It is the visual beauty of Bhimjis artworks that speaks to the beholder. However, her unpeopled films and photographs are neither sentimental nor do they forcibly put things in a favorable light. And haunting soundscapes sometimes enhance her films, including a mix of snippets from newscasts, local background noise, and music. Furthermore, her art does not evade the traces of violence in history: The scars from exploded grenades in an interior, guns lined up against a wall in Uganda or walls scrawled with graffiti, and likewise the scratched-away face of a statue of Queen Victoria all allude to appalling events. Mute and profound tragedies unfold in her work. Bhimjis aloof viewpoint, her gentle perseverance in lifting the veil off hidden beauties while also exposing the scars, endeavors to be both factual and excite our interest.
The most comprehensive show of her oeuvre to date
Besides exhibits from her photographic oeuvre and her installation work (among others, loans from the Victoria & Albert Museum in London), her film Out Of Blue (2002) is being shown for the first time in Switzerland, and the same is true for her new film Yellow Patch (2011) that was produced especially for the present exhibition. For Zarina Bhimjis 25-year-long career as an artist, this exhibition with some 30 artworks and series is the most comprehensive show of her oeuvre to date.