Beneath the Placid Lake

Kush BADHWAR (fellow) in conversation with Vyjayanthi RAO (anthropologist) and Ala YOUNIS (artist) & Alia MOSSALLAM (cultural historian)

Postcard of an unidentified location, found amongst a collection of images taken on a research trip around the area of Srisailam Dam, circa 1970s.

In the course of his fellowship project Rain Trees, Kush BADHWAR has been attempting to open out narratives embedded in a body of found media detritus. The materials are those of a professor of ancient Indian history and archaeology, and one of the narratives therein is that of a rescue process of archaeological remains as a result of the construction of a large-scale infrastructural project. In this study of Srisailam Dam on the Krishna River, he cites the Aswan High Dam to justify a “case for salvage archaeology”.

For the Büchsenhausen Focus Weeks 2021, Badhwar hosts two conversations. One between himself and anthropologist, writer and curator Vyjayanthi RAO around her essay The Future in Ruins. And the other between research-based artist Ala YOUNIS and cultural historian Alia MOSSALLAM, about their work that spans a range of forms and ideas that respond to the construction of the Aswan High Dam on the Nile. This will be followed by a shared conversation between the four participants, who will then seek to explore temporality, the archive, displacement, labour, narrativity, song and other echoes between their work and thinking.

PLEASE NOTE: If you would like to directly participate in the discussion, please register via Eventbrite. You will receive the Zoom link automatically. Otherwise you will be able to follow the event on Facebook.

The event is part of the Büchsenhausen Focus Weeks 2021. More events organized by the Fellows 2020-21 will follow in the course of the next few weeks.

Kush BADHWAR is an artist and filmmaker operating across media, art, cinematic and other social contexts. He is interested in the ecology of sound and image across stretches of time and political change. He believes in the potential of research and collectivity. To this end, he has worked closely with wala, Word Sound Power, Frontyard Projects and Khanabadosh.

Selected screening or exhibition of his work includes at Addis Video Art Festival, the Flaherty Seminar, Tallinn Photomonth Biennale, Five Million Incidents, Experimenta Bangalore, Sarai Reader 09, Videobrasil, and Forum Expanded, Berlinale. He has also undertaken’s Fellowship for Experiments with Video Archives and India Foundation of the Arts Archival Fellowship.

Vyjayanthi RAO is an anthropologist, writer, and curator. Her work explores speculation, memory, heritage, design, and the built environment more broadly. She combines multiple representational techniques, including ethnography, mapping, video and other forms of visual research, to communicate her research to an audience within and beyond academia.
Vyjayanthi teaches urban studies at the Spitzer School of Architecture in New York, and she is a Senior Editor of the journal Public Culture (Duke University Press). In 2016, she founded an artist collective called Samooha, bringing together anthropology, architecture, and activism to explore cultures of self-reliance and self-building through creative practice.

Ala YOUNIS is an artist who trained as an architect in Amman. Her practice focuses heavily on research as well as curating, collaboration, film, and book projects. Her projects deal with collective experiences that collapse into personal ones, and with how archives play on predilections, and their lacunas and mishaps manipulate the imagination. Her work has been featured in solo shows in Amman, London, Seville, Prague, Sharjah, Dubai, and New York. She has also taken part in the Istanbul and Gwangju Biennials; and the New Museum Triennial, New York. In 2013, she curated Kuwait’s first national pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale and co-founded the publishing and research initiative Kayfa ta. She is a member of the Advisory Board of Berlinale’s Forum Expanded and of the Academy of Arts of the World, Cologne. High Dam (2016– ) is a multi-disciplinary body of work that presents factual and audio-visual elements from the reverse paths of several creative works on the High Dam. These elements offer insights into the processes that governed the politics of the era, particularly the propaganda apparatus of the UAR and the USSR, and the tricks their makers resorted to when their work did not fit the states’ vision.

Alia MOSSALLAM is a cultural historian interested in songs that tell stories and stories that tell of popular struggles behind the better-known events that shape world history. She is a EUME fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Berlin, writing a book on the visual and musical archiving practices of the builders of the Aswan High Dam and Nubian communities displaced by it. Some of her writings can be found in The Journal of Water History, The History Workshop Journal, the LSE Middle East Paper Series, Jadaliyya, Ma’azif, 60 Pages, Bidayat and Mada Masr. An experimental pedagogue, she has founded the site-specific public history project Ihky ya Tarikh and taught at the American University in Cairo, CILAS, and the Freie Universität in Berlin.


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