The Sovereign Forest: The Constitution, 2012

Installation view: Amar Kanwar: The Sovereign Forest, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna, Austria, 2014 | Photo: Jens Ziehe
Installation view: Amar Kanwar: The Sovereign Forest, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna, Austria, 2014 | Photo: Jens Ziehe
Installation view: Amar Kanwar: The Sovereign Forest, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna, Austria, 2014 | Photo: Jens Ziehe

Installation including handmade book, wooden table, lamp and single-channel video projection, color, silent
Book: 64 x 56 x 4.2 cm, Table: 164 x 645 x 80 cm, Lamp: 25 x ø 5 cm, Video: 9 min
Produced with the support of: Samadrusti, Odisha; Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Yorkshire Sculpture Park; Public Press, New Delhi and dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel 

Amar Kanwar's works of the past two decades has presented a profound interrogation of the politics of power, violence, and justice. His multilayered art installation The Sovereign Forest (2011) emerges from the conflict in Odisha, India, between local communities, the government, and corporations. For more than a decade Kanwar has been filming the industrial interventions that have reshaped and permanently destroyed parts of the state's landscape. Since the 1990s Odisha has been a battleground on issues of development and displacement, as national and international corporations have established large-scale mining and industrial sites in various parts of the traditionally agrarian state. The resulting conflicts between local communities, the government, and corporations over the control of agricultural lands, forests, rivers, and minerals have led to the forcible displacement of indigenous communities, farmers, and fisherfolk while engendering an ongoing regimen of violence that is often unpredictable and invisible. The Sovereign Forest renders visible what has hitherto been hidden and suppressed within the site of this "modern war." Engaging the viewer in manifold ways of seeing and comprehending, the work harnesses a set of propositions that investigate the notion of "poetry as evidence". Kanwar's films and the constellation of objects that accompany them orchestrate actual found and collected images, traces, records, fables, and personal stories in multiple vocabularies to surpass fact and reveal a richer, more fluid, and poetic perspective on reality and on the meaning of what is happening. The act of "seeing" in this case leads us to a deeper and more multidimensional comprehension of the relationship between life and politics, between the personal and the ungraspable implications of violence. The Constitution is part of The Sovereign Forest.

The book titled The Constitution (2012) is handmade from ramie and cotton fiber paper. As described by Kanwar, it is a book about knowledge that is not scripted, with almost no words except for the printed titles of chapters, each title locates trajectories of wisdom that are missing in formal national constitutions. The handcrafted pages have thread exquisitely embedded and woven into them, forming a series of unique scripts. Each page corresponds to, responds to, and takes further the meaning of the titles. The book can be read through its materiality, the touch of the paper, the textures visible in the orchestration of transparency and light, and the fleeting film projected on the pages.
Amar Kanwar was born in New Delhi in 1964 where he continues to live and work as a filmmaker. Kanwar studied at the Department of History, Ramjas College, Delhi University, and at the Mass Communication Research Center, Jamia Milia Islamia, New Delhi. After making a few films, Kanwar joined the People's Science Institute in 1988 as a researcher on occupational health and safety in the coal-mining belt of Madhya Pradesh in central India. He returned to filmmaking in 1990, and his films were then shown primarily in public campaigns, community spaces and film festivals in India and across the world. Kanwar's filmmaking practice challenges the limits of the medium in order to create complex narratives traversing several terrains such as labour and indigenous rights, gener, religious fundamentalis, and ecology. In 2002, Kanwar was invited to exhibit at Documenta 11 in Kassel whereupon his work has also been presented in several art exhibitions and museums. Connecting with diverse audiences, in multiple public spaces, Kanwar also participated in the next editions of the Documenta exhibition in 2007, 2012. and 2017. He has been an eminent voice in film and art for the past two decades

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