This is Imran Channa ́s first solo exhibition in Berlin, Germany. In “ Dust to Dust” Channa shows eight pieces of erased charcoal drawings – in landscape format – of historical ruins from both his native country of Pakistan and from India. In addition to these partially-erased images of archaeological ruins, Channa ́s preserves eraser particles in small vessels are displayed on shelves next to the faded images. The process of erasing charcoal in the rich textural images – both sharp and gradational – of historical ruins showcases the artist ́s masterful drawing techniques.
The video series “Dust to Dust” is presented on the upper chamber of the gallery. It shows microscopic zooming images of the erased particles in monochromic black and white, as well as the accompanying sound installation.
Below the chamber, a curtain image of “Babri Masjid” (Mosque of Babur), which was demolished in 1992, can be seen juxtaposed to the fading images of charcoal renderings that yield to the memory of the past.
For Imran Channa, the ruins are remnants of the past as well as a reminder of the passing of time. For him, the most critical aspect of the ruins is not their past but how they
point toward the future: They let us imagine and re-imagine the future.
Through the archeological fragments of the past – the focused imagery of this series – he is looking for contemporary discourse on constructed and reconstructed narratives triggered by the 1947 partition of British India into Islamic Pakistan and Hindu India. The partition sparked a mass exodus of individuals from both religious groups. It resulted in genocides that cost the lives of millions as well as caused massive displacements.
The power struggle in connection with the archaeological ruins is still ongoing today, fueled by both groups as they invade, occupy, demolish or reconstruct these sites in an effort to take ownership of the history.
Here the artist is concerned with the interplay that exists between historical archives and how historical records are projected or reinterpreted in the present. He also explores how this present “re-imagination” constructs the past in the minds and perception of people today.
The artist uses archival photos from the British Library collection for this project. The photos show the ruins of ancient religious temples in India, documented by British photographers from the 1880s till the early 1900s for the Archaeological Survey of India, commissioned and carried out by the British Raj. These ruins, located in modern-day India and Pakistan, are silent witnesses to the passage of time – the physical remains of a fragmented history.
Imran Channa lives and works in Lahore, Pakistan. In recent years, he has been working in Europe and North America. He is the recipient of various prestigious awards and fellowships.
He was awarded, for example, by the Mondriaan Fund at the Jan van Eyke Academie, the Netherlands, and was a Visiting Fellow at Harvard University, Cambridge, USA. Presently, he is spending a one-year sojourn in Baden Württemberg, Germany, as a Fellow at the Akademie Schloss Solitude.
English text edit by Birgit Hansen