The title evokes the artist’s attempt to illuminate suppressed histories, in order to address broader questions about violence and oppression. As an artist and filmmaker, Kanwar tries to understand experiences of trauma and survival. Rather than representing people as victims, his work emphasises the possibility of resistance.
The brutal split that created India and Pakistan in 1947 is the starting point for a layered exploration of women’s experiences in disputed terrains across South Asia. Social stigma around rape enabled a culture of silence, and the emergence of these accounts has relied on the collective work and research of activists, legal workers and scholars. A selection of this material is available in the reading area.
In the installation, separate narratives form a shared experience, overlapping in parts until they finally converge. On each screen, individual experiences are expressed in multiple ways: the recollections of survivors and of witnesses are interspersed with images of the
architectural spaces and natural landscapes that bear these difficult memories. These are retold by the artist as well as the individuals he encountered over several years of research.
Going beyond documentary approaches, Kanwar’s reflective commentary examines the capacity for unspeakable horror alongside the resilience and dignity of those who suffer, and those who protest. Over the last decade, debates around sexual violence in South Asia have gained momentum, leading to new legislation and media attention towards women and their ability to talk about, protest and resist sexual aggression.
The Lightning Testimonies 2007
Eight-channel digital colour and black-and-white video, with sound. 32 minutes 31 seconds, looped
This work is being purchased with funds provided by the South Asia Acquisitions Committee 2017
Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery
Curated by Nada Raza and Priyesh Mistry