For those who haven’t seen Avi Shankar Ain’s art firsthand, a warning: photographs of it can be misleading. In reproduction, his hyperrealist drawings invoke provocative body: a counter-myth of dark body sourced from important social documents, wrest free from the exaltation of a vision of a Bangladeshi identity. In his Made in Bangladesh series, drawing ceased to be a privileged high modernist form in order to become boundaries that separate art from politics. Avi clothed Made in Bangladesh in different perceptibility by inscribing it in a narrative that roots in the unconscious by heightening the delirium of bodies: Made in Bangladesh stars Maks, the Bangladeshi model of American Apparel’s controversial advertisement campaign launched right at the heel of the collapse of Rana Plaza which killed 1300+ mostly women textile workers. Avi fosters a model’s ideal body image while having Maks sticking out her tongue like the Hindu icon Kali; but, instead of having Maks wear a necklace of skulls like Kali, Avi has Maks carry a Hermès’ Birkin overflowing with skulls.

If Made in Bangladesh is strange and disturbing, it’s because the work induce in viewers a process of interpretation and transformation of their initial sensation. The superimposition of Indian myth onto the history of now as told in the newspapers, the impressionable memory of 1300+ labors’ death, Gustave Dore’s illustrated Bible, Goya’s engravings… Avi’s work is infused with all of that and much more as his subject is contemporary, and he wants to take responsibility for a part of what’s left to be said.

text by Ebadur Rahman



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