Inside Outside


February 26 – March 11, 2022, Dwip Gallery, 1/1, Block D (g floor), Lalmatia, Dhaka


The human eye divides the experiential realms into two halves – the self and the world. Informed by language, we develop the capacity to stand back and look at the world in order to observe, objectify and even dissect it when necessary. The world, thus, becomes an object of both attention and manipulation. Modernity, with its novel procedures and apparatuses, has further manipulated the objectifying gaze, thereby affording an unravelling of the world in ways hitherto unthought of. We can now observe the furthest cosmos and even dissect the human body, the microcosmic universe, to examine its material content in its microdetails.

The madicalisation of health has surely resulted in the assurance of detection and cure of many diseases, but it also gave rise to an attention regime, or call it gaze, through which the body has eternally been jettisoned into the desert of factual knowledge. It is from the in-between area of the modern knowledgescape and the traditional cosmic understanding of the body that painter and installation artist Kazi Salahuddin Ahmed’s recent works using light boxes function as a series of arche-visual.

The neologism arche-visual is an homage to French thinker Jacque Derrida, who coined the trope arche-writing to refer to the distinction between the audible and the written as well as to allude to the ‘originary breach’ that separates the expressed from what is being expressed, a condition that constitutes all forms of writing. Derrida further explains: ‘all writing, in order to be what it is, must be able to function in the absence of every empirically determined addressee.’

Meaning, too, is deferred as it always remains absent from the text as far as writing is concerned. So one may conclude that reading takes place within a relational web where other texts/images exert influence on the text/image under the scanner. So meaning is generated by dissociating the work from the so-called ‘original’ intention of the writer/artist, which is an extra-textual factor, but not from the context.     

We can superimpose these thoughts on the series of images that go into the installation titled ‘Inside Outside’ and realise that the artist homes in on the eye of storm that is life in a technological age without getting bogged down in the pathologies it produces.

The receipt of these glimpses into a real unreal, or unreal real, world must then happen in absence of the original intention of the artist and should comfortably be tied to a framework where our reading and act of interpreting is informed by all that has already degraded the sacred bodies – both the human body and the vast cosmos external to the body. 


Though each piece of the current oeuvre has an enchanting visual quality to it and may easily be considered a standalone work, presented in clusters to create a coherent narrative, the works eloquently bring into view some aspects of the dystopian reality linked to our botched urban dreams.

The coupling of ‘found image’ in the form of X-ray sheets and ‘hand-drawn’ elements that refer to debris and man-made catastrophe makes the installation look aesthetically pleasing. But it also simultaneously addresses the condition arising out of a modernist project that has been paradoxically evolving through myriad double binds.

Urban development in a peripheral capital-driven country like Bangladesh dazzles the eye but it also leaves out some loose ends in its wake. Dhaka’s urbanisation spree can easily be written off as a series of disasters. These may include the collapse of traditional communities, overexploitation of natural and human resources while the water bodies as well as open fields gradually vanished to accommodate new types of urban dwellings, and not to mention the collapse of buildings over the past decades in the garment industry, which is the country’s highest foreign currency earner. All this has a definitive place in the new-found linguistic expression of this fifty-plus artist.

Additionally, Salahuddin seems to stage this installation with textual function in mind. The hybridisation involving the material and technique and the clustering of the pieces together facilitate a semiotic mediation. Creating a symphony of light and shadow, the artist transforms Dhaka’s chaotic spatial and social-psychological metrices into a diction of transcendence. 

— Mustafa Zaman