Mining Warm Data

Curated by Diana Campbell Betancourt, Artistic Director,
Samdani Art Foundation
Assisted by Ruxmini Choudhury and Shabnam Lilani


“A warm data body is a portrait, not a profile; when a warm data body is erased, the real body remains intact. Warm data is easiest to define in opposition to what it is not: warm data is the opposite of cold, hard facts. Warm data is subjective; it cannot be proved or disproved, and it can never be held against you in a court of law. Warm data is specific and personal, never abstract. Warm databases are public, not secret. However, warm data can only be collected voluntarily, not by force; the respondent always has a choice — whether to answer or not, which questions to answer, on what terms she will answer, and if her answers will be anonymous. A warm database is distinguished from a corporate or government database not primarily by its interface or its underlying structure, but by the way its data is collected.” Mariam Ghani

Curated by Diana Campbell Betancourt, this exhibition includes features artists from Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Tibet, Nepal, Bangladesh and their diaspora, the exhibition exposes subjective and emotional history radiating around Mariam Ghani and Chitra Ganesh’s new chapter of the “Index of the Disappeared,” produced by Samdani Art Foundation, Yale University Law School’s Schell Center for Human Rights and Creative Time Reports. Artists include Lida Abdul, Gazi Nafis Ahmed, Pablo Bartholomew, Neha Choksi, Hasan Elahi, Hitman Gurung, S. Hanusha, Maryam Jafri, Dilara Begum Jolly, Amar Kanwar, Huma Mulji, Nge Lay, Nortse, Tenzing Rigdol, Menika van der Poorten and Ritu Sarin & Tenzing Sonam.


Chitra Ganesh (B. 1975, New York) 
Chitra Ganesh is a Brooklyn-based artist widely recognised for her experimental use of comic and largescale narrative forms to excavate narratives typically absent from canons of history and art. Notable international exhibitions include the Asia Society (2005) in New York, Fondazione Sandretto (2006), Kunsthalle Exnergrasse (2011) and Queens Museum (2013), with solo presentations at PS1/MOMA (2009-10), The Andy Warhol Museum (2011), Gothenberg Kunsthalle (2012) and the Brooklyn Museum (2014). Her work can be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, San Jose Museum of Art, Baltimore Museum of Art, the Saatchi Collection, Burger Collection, & Devi Art Foundation.

Mariam Ghani (B. 1978, New York)
Mariam Ghani is an artist, writer, and filmmaker. Her work looks at places and moments where social, political, and cultural structures take on visible forms, and has been presented internationally. Notable exhibitions and screenings include the Liverpool Biennial (2004), the Brooklyn Museum (2005), Tate Modern (2007), the National Gallery (2008), the Sharjah Biennial (2009), the Museum of Modern Art (2011), dOCUMENTA 13 (2012), the Rotterdam Film Festival (2013), the CCCB (2014), and the Saint Louis Art Museum (2015). Recent texts have been published in Creative Time Reports, Foreign Policy, Ibraaz, Triple Canopy, the Manifesta Journal, and the readers Dissonant Archives and The Gulf: High Culture, Hard Labor.

Lida Abdul (B. 1973, Kabul)
As an artist who works both in performance and video art, Lida Abdul creates poetic spaces that allow the viewer to interrogate the familiar and the personal. Abdul lived in Germany and India as a refugee after she was forced to leave Afghanistan following the former-Soviet invasion in 1979, and was unable to return until the US invasion of 2001. Her work fuses the tropes of ‘Western” formalism with the numerous aesthetic traditions – Islamic, Buddhist, Hindu, pagan and nomadic – that collectively influenced Afghan art and culture. Her work is guided by a ritualised formalism that insinuates the immediacy of myth and the playfulness of a mind seeking to understand the surrounding world. She was the first artist to represent Afghanistan at the 51st Venice Biennale (2005) and won a Prince Claus Award soon after in 2006. Abdul has exhibited at the Gwangju Biennale (2006), MoMA (2007), Tate Modern (2007), Sharjah Biennial (2007) and dOCUMENTA (13) (2012) and many other leading institutions and her work can be found in the permanent collections of MoMA, GAM in Turin, the Sharjah Art Foundation, and the Louis Vuitton Foundation.

Gazi Nafis Ahmed (B. 1982, Dhaka)
Dhaka-based photographer Gazi Nafis Ahmed’s artistic practice deals with his complex childhood memories and departs from moments that took place in the past. Born in 1982, the artist first pursued a degree in art and design, and then switched to photojournalism and he is currently studying photography at the Istituto Europeo de Design (IED) in Madrid. Along his artistic journey he realised the power of photography to enact social change; to impact on the group mind states of the audience. He is known for his work with ostracised drug-addicts and the LGBT communities, whose activism for equality continue across the world. Ahmed seeks to capture many things at the same time; things that are interconnected by nature, non-linear and intuitive, and not necessarily fitting into the context of one single project.

Pablo Bartholomew (B. 1955, New Delhi)
Pablo Bartholomew is an internationally-renowned photographer whose images have earned him the Indian government’s Padma Shri Award in 2013, and the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres on behalf of the French Republic in 2014. In 1975 he received his first World Press Photo award and in 1984 his work on the Bhopal gas tragedy won him the World Press Photo of the Year. Pablo Bartholomew’s father, Richard Bartholomew, was a Delhi-based refugee from Burma who became one of India’s leading art critics and photographers, and his mother, Rati, was an English professor and theatre activist – who exposed him to a cosmopolitan culture combining Indian and Western modernisms. This informed Bartholomew’s visual style, modern and transcending their documentary nature. Whilst teaching himself photography, Bartholomew used his camera to uniquely document India’s countercultures, not only revealing a world hidden in the margins, but also sharing his own process of self-making. The presence and charge of the images is largely due to the fact that we are seeing his lived reality; he is as much a part of the work as he is its author.

Neha Choksi (B. 1973, Belleville, U.S.A)
Neha Choksi is a Bombay and Los Angeles-based artist whose oeuvre presents a materially bound search, and acceptance of, absences and emptyings. Whether sculpture, video, photography or performance, her art embraces emotion and process. She approaches absence through an excess of gesture and presence. Choksi was formally educated in Fine Arts and Indo-European philology, receiving a dual BA in Greek and in Art from the University of California, 1997, Los Angeles and an MA in Classics from Columbia University, 2000, New York. She has participated in a number of live performance, solo, and group exhibitions some of which include, Minds to Lose, Project 88, Mumbai and Khoj International Artists Association, New Delhi (2008/2009); Quarantania, 3-person show, John Hansard Gallery, Southampton (2012); Energy Plus, Shanghai Biennale, Mumbai City Pavilion (2012); Asia Pacific Triennale 7, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane (2012); Kochi Muziris Biennale (2014); In Leaf (Primary Time), Hayward Gallery Project Space, London (2015).

Hasan Elahi (B. 1972, Rangpur, Bangladesh)
Hasan Elahi is an interdisciplinary artist whose work examines issues of surveillance, citizenship, migration, transport, and borders and frontiers. Elahi is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Maryland, and director of the Digital Cultures and Creativity Honors Program. His work has been presented in numerous exhibitions at venues such as Kassel Kulturbahnhof (2005), the Venice Biennale (2007), Centre Georges Pompidou (2007), Sundance Film Festival (2008) and The Hermitage (2008) and SITE Santa Fe (2010).

Hitman Gurung (B.1986, Kathmandu)
Hitman Gurung infuses his paintings, documentary photographs, photo collage and installation artworks with political conviction and personal poetry. He is deeply concerned about the post-Maoist civil war and the current political and environmental instability in Nepal. His recent series of work talks about transitory Nepalese migrant labourers who leave their families and country behind to join the work forces of foreign countries. Thousands of workers leave Nepal every month to the Middle East, and many are injured or die away from home due to substandard working conditions. International migration has increased exponentially since the civil war, leaving a generational gap that affects a sense of community, the passing on of knowledge and economic wellbeing. Recently, Gurung’s work has been exhibited at the Culture and Development, Images Festival, Occupy Utopia in Denmark (2013), Dhaka Art Summit (2014), and The 8th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Brisbane (2015) among others. Gurung is co-founder of artist collective Artree Nepal.

S. Hanusha (B. 1988, Nuwara Eliya)
S. Hanusha, also known as Hanusha Somasunderam, studied Art and Design at the University of Jaffna. Her work revolves around the ongoing struggle of Sri Lankan upcountry plantation workers that has existed since colonial times, using hand-made strainers and teabags as material to address the exploitation of the labour used to create these materials. The artist employs a play on words, where the strainer embodies the strain suffered by the community, a strain that seeps into all facets of live across generations, leaving an indelible stain. Hanusha’s works have been exhibited at Open Space, Colombo (2013), Bamiyan Cultural Center, Afghanistan (2015) and Saskia Fernando Gallery, Sri Lanka (2015).

Maryam Jafri (B. 1972, Karachi)
Maryam Jafri’s multidisciplinary practice incorporating video, photography, text, sculpture, and performance has been described as a crossroads of cultural anthropology and conceptual art. Informed by a research-based process, her artworks are often marked by a visual language poised between film and theatre and a series of narrative experiments oscillating between script and document, fragment and whole. She has exhibited at the UCLA Hammer Museum of Art (2002) and Film Forum at the Egyptian Theatre (2002), Kunsthalle Basel (2015), the 56th Venice Biennale in the Belgian Pavilion (2015), Bétonsalon (2015) and many other leading international institutions.

Dilara Begum Jolly (B. 1960, Chittagong)
Dilara Begum Jolly expresses the deformity and imbalance of society through her artwork with satire, ridicule and incisive irony. Trained in painting and printmaking, she now works in a variety of media including drawing, installation and performance. She has been included in exhibitions at the German Cultural Centre, Goethe-Institut, Dhaka, Bangladesh (1984), each edition of the Asian Art Biennale Bangladesh (of the last 20 years), Triennale Mandible d’Estampes Format, France (1994), and the National 4th Egyptian International Print Triennial (2003) among others.

Amar Kanwar (B. 1964, New Delhi)
Amar Kanwar’s films and installations are complex, contemporary narratives that connect intimate personal spheres of existence to larger social political processes and draw attention to injustices that do not usually find a voice. Meticulously researched and presented, Kanwar’s work has been judiciously exhibited in solo projects at the Art Institute of Chicago, USA (2013); Yorkshire Sculpture Park, UK (2013); Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA 21), Vienna, Austria (2014) and the Assam State Museum, Guwahati (2015). Kanwar has participated in Documenta 11, 12 and 13, Kassel, Germany (2002, 2007, 2012). Kanwar has been the recipient of awards including the MacArthur Fellowship in India (2000); the Edvard Munch Award for Contemporary Art, Norway (2005); an Honorary Doctorate in Fine Arts, Maine College of Art, Portland, (2006); and the Leonore Annenberg Prize for Art and Social Change (2014).

Nge Lay (B. 1979 in Pyin Oo Lwin)
Nge Lay’s haunting works vary from performance, sculpture and installation to photography. Most of Lay’s works are reflections of her inner perception of the prevailing societies in Myanmar and include historical background and biographical references, often relating to the plight of women in her country. Together with her husband Aung Ko, Nge Lay has also been involved in a community project in his hometown Tuye’dan Village, an isolated place, 340km from Yangon next to an ammunitions factory. Her work has been included in several notable art projects in Singapore, Japan, France, Korea and Vietnam. In 2012 she was a finalist in the Sovereign Art Asia Prize and was a part of the Singapore Biennale (2013) and the most recent 8th Asia Pacific Triennale in Brisbane (2015).

Huma Mulji (B. 1970, Karachi)
Huma Mulji employs sculpture, photography, drawing, painting, and often taxidermy to create surreal juxtapositions with materials and objects, which are attentive to the absurd and the visual paradoxes of the tragic/comic, fact/fiction. The awkward and scruffy artworks imbue a deliberate anti-heroism, ironically, addressing perceptions of ageing and isolation, oppression, urban expansion and its related follies. Her participation in exhibitions includes Hanging Fire: Contemporary Art from Pakistan, at the Asia Society, New York (2009), The Rising Tide, Mohatta Palace Museum, Karachi (2010), Where three Dreams Cross, the Whitechapel Gallery, London (2010), The Empire Strikes Back, The Saatchi Gallery (2010), Burning Down the House, 10th Gwangju Biennale, South Korea (2014) and The Great Game, Iranian Pavilion, 56th Venice Biennale (2015). Mulji was a recipient of the Abraaj Group Art Prize 2013.

Nortse (B. 1963, Lhasa)
Born Norbu Tsering, Nortse’s amassed experience has resulted in his creation of striking mixed-media works that experiment with forms and imagery from traditional Tibetan art and culture. Nortse has studied at several schools across South and East Asia from 1980-1991, including the Tibet University in Lhasa, the Central Arts Academy in Beijing and art academies in Guangzhou and Tianjing. His practice addresses universal concerns: global warming, environmental degradation, over-population, alcoholism, the erosion of culture and tradition, and the desire to establish one’s own identity in a world of mass media as well as the specific effects of the Chinese Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) on Tibetan culture. Nortse’s works have been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions at the Kathmandu International Festival (2012), Tel Aviv Museum of Art (2012), the Queens Museum, New York (2014) and Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2015) among many others.

Tenzing Rigdol (B. 1982, Kathmandu)
Tenzing Rigdol is a contemporary Tibetan artist whose work ranges from painting, sculpture, drawing and collage, to digital, video-installation, performance art and site specific pieces. His paintings are the products of collective influences and interpretations of age-old traditions, influenced by philosophy and often capture the on-going issues of human conflicts with strong political undertones. He studied traditional Thangka and Sand Painting in Nepal (1999-2003), and continued his painting studies at the University of Colorado (earning a BFA in 2005). His 2011 project, Our Land, Our People, involved the covert transportation of 20 tonnes of soil out of Tibet, through Nepal, to Dharamsala. There, displaced Tibetans were given the opportunity to walk on their home soil once again. He has exhibited at the Rubin Museum of Art (2007, 2010), Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv (2011), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2014) and Queens Museum, New York (2014), 4th International Moscow Biennale for Young Art (2014), among many others.

Menika Van Der Poorten (B. 1957, London)
Menika van der Poorten’s photographic practice is informed by her experience of living between different cultures and communities. Identity, place and the ‘marking of presence’ are recurring themes. Her current work focuses upon communities that experience displacement and are in a ‘state of flux,’ inspired by her own family history of mixed race descendants of European settlers who came to Sri Lanka during colonial times. The artist aims to contextualise the ‘presence and present’ of the Eurasian community through their stories. Van der Poorten’s works have been exhibited at the National Art Gallery of Colombo (2002), the Lionel Wendt Art Gallery (2006), the Red Dot Gallery (2009), and the Kochi Muziris Biennale (2016). She recently co-curated the Colomboscope Festival in 2015.

Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam (B. 1958, New Delhi & B. 1959, Darjeeling)
Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam are artists and film directors based in Dharamshala, India, and have made films with Tibetan subject matter for over 20 years, exploring matters of exile, identity, culture and political motivation. Their medium constantly evolves through video installations, archive and architecturerelated projects. Together they founded White Crane Films through which White Crane Arts & Media was born, a non-profit trust to promote contemporary art, cinema and independent media practices in the Himalayan regions. Their documentaries include The Reincarnation on Khensur Rinpoche (1991), The Shadow Circus: The CIA in Tibet (1998), and The Sun Behind the Clouds (2009). Their dramatic feature, Dreaming Lhasa (2005), premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Sarin and Sonam were commissioned by Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary to make a single channel video installation, Some Questions on the Nature of Your Existence (2007), which was featured in The Kaleidoscopic Eye: Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Collection, exhibition at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo (2009), and the Busan Biennale (2010).