An Amar Kanwar project in Odisha attempts to reopen the discussion and initiate creative responses to crime, politics, human rights and ecology

How valid is the evidence of poetry in a criminal or political trial? Can it bring a new or valuable perspective on the crime? What should be the discourse on seeing, understanding, compassion, on issues of justice, sovereignty and determination of the self?

These and other questions have been woven together in a constellation of moving and still images, texts, books, pamphlets, albums, music, objects, seeds, events and processes in a project The Sovereign Forest.

The exhibition by documentary film maker Amar Kanwar and news fortnightly The Samadrusti in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, attempts to reopen discussion and initiate a creative response to the understanding of crime, politics, human rights and ecology.

“The Sovereign Forest reincarnates itself as an art installation, an exhibition, a library, a memorial, a public trial, an open call for the collection of more ‘evidence’, an archive and also a proposition for a space that engages with political issues as well as with art,” says Amar.

The central film, titled ‘The Scene of Crime’ offers an experience of landscape just prior to erasure as territories marked for acquisition by industries. “Almost every image in this film lies within specific territories that are proposed industrial sites and are in the process of being acquired by government and corporations in Orissa. Every location, every blade of grass, every water source, every tree that is seen in the film is now meant to not exist anymore. ‘The Scene of Crime’ is an experience of ‘looking’ at the terrain of this conflict and the personal lives that exist within this natural landscape,” explains Amar. Visitors are invited to contribute a photograph, a film, a document, a text, an object, seed, cloth, pattern, drawing, or any ‘evidence’ in any form to the constellation of evidence presented. The exhibition, on for a few months in Odisha, will look to find answers to questions such as -- How to understand the conflict around us? What is the vocabulary of a language that can talk about a series of simultaneous disappearances occurring across multiple dimensions of our lives? How to see, know, understand and remember these disappearances? How to look again?

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