Sunday, January 3, 2016

Fwd: Rehearsing the Witness: The Bhawal Court Case | THE EXPERT WITNESS PROGRAMME | 6 - 9 January 2016


The Expert Witness Programme | 6 - 9 January 2016
Rehearsing the Witness: The Bhawal Court Case
A project by Zuleikha Chaudhari
18 December 2015 – 20 February 2016


THE EXPERT WITNESS PROGRAMME
6 - 9 January 2016

The Expert Witness Programme is a rehearsal towards an imaginary retrial based on select evidence from the archives of the Bhawal court case. It explores how both the domains of law and of theatre frame the larger question of how we define who we are and who defines what evidence is. 

Bhrigupati Singh will speak with Zuleikha Chaudhari about asceticism and the reinvention of the self. Mayur Suresh will discuss the parallel universes of the court file. Or, how to take a picture through the looking-glass. Başak Ertür will ruminate on jurisfiction, and the drama and tedium of legal reconstruction. Sabih Ahmed will share thoughts about the archive's own performativity, and ask what constitutes the event proper in its staging and re-staging of history. Philippe Calia will talk to Zuleikha Chaudhari about the photograph-as-proof, and how visual evidence is not found but produced. Malavika Jayaram will explore the administrative fantasy of biometric technologies, and the implications of the body-as-password for our understanding of the truth about identity. Avi Singh will take on the question that the original trial set aside: If the sannyasi is in fact the kumar, then whose body was cremated in Darjeeling?

Schedule
 
6 January 2016, 5 – 7pm
Brighupati Singh (via Skype) and Mayur Suresh
 
7 January 2016, 5 – 7pm
Başak Ertür (via Skype)
 
9 January 2016, 3 – 7pm
Sabih Ahmed, Philippe Calia, Malavika Jayaram (via Skype) and Avi Singh

About the exhibition
 

On 12 January 2016 the exhibition will reopen with a record of the auditions, rehearsals and the retrial that took place in the month preceding, along with select evidence from the original case. The exhibition will remain on view till 20 February 2016

The project explores the idea of rehearsal-as-exhibition. A rehearsal is typically an act of repetition. During a rehearsal, an actor is engaged in the production of a portrait, an image of a self. The repetition is in order to create the real, a believable real.
 
About the exhibition
 
On 12 January 2016 the exhibition will reopen with a record of the auditions, rehearsals and the retrial that took place in the month preceding, along with select evidence from the original case. 
 
The project explores the idea of rehearsal-as-exhibition. A rehearsal is typically an act of repetition. During a rehearsal, an actor is engaged in the production of a portrait, an image of a self. The repetition is in order to create the real, a believable real.
 
The project draws on material from the Bhawal case, which revolved around the identity of a wayfaring sannyasi – or Hindu religious ascetic – rumoured to be the heir of one of the last great zamindari estates near Dhaka in East Bengal, now modern Bangladesh. It was instigated by an album of about 90 photographs – namely portraits of the young kumar and the older plaintiff – that were submitted as evidence to establish likeness, and uses original testimonies and cross-examinations from the trial as scripts for a performance. In a court of law, one's testimony bears the burden of proving one's self, of convincing the judge that you are who you say you are.  In relation to this, and through the process of re-enactment, the exhibition investigates the audition and the rehearsal as a space where being oneself and being someone else merge, where telling the truth and faking it become indistinguishable.


The exhibition will remain on view till 20 February 2016

About the Bhawal case
 
The Bhawal case was an extended pre-independence Indian court case about a possible impostor claiming to be the second Kumar of Bhawal, Ramendra Narayan Roy, who was presumed dead a decade earlier. The claim was contested both by the British Court of Wards and by his widow, Bibhabati Devi. The case was on trial from 1930 to 1946. Over the course of sixteen years, the man's physical attributes, birthmarks, portraits, testimonies and memory were put together as forensic evidence to establish his identity. Hundreds of witnesses, including doctors, photographers, prostitutes, peasants, revenue collectors, tenants, holy men, magistrates, handwriting experts, relatives, soldiers and passersby were deposed. The case went from a lower court in Dhaka to the High Court of Calcutta to the Privy Council in London.
 
About the witnesses

Sabih Ahmed is a senior researcher at Asia Art Archive, and a member of AAA's Research+ team since 2009. Stationed in New Delhi, he oversees digitisation projects in the country alongside other research initiatives. Sabih completed his MA at the School of Arts & Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, and has organised and participated in numerous conferences and workshops internationally.
 
Philippe Calia is an artist and photographer, currently based in Bombay. Since 2013, he has been a member and photo editor at PIX Quarterly, New Delhi. In 2015, he co-founded the BIND Collective.
 
Başak Ertür is a lecturer at the School of Law at Birkbeck, University of London and a fellow at the Center for the Study of Social Difference at Columbia University. She is currently working on a book on political trials, performativity, and sovereignty as it is articulated through spectacles and spectres. Her research revolves around critical legal thought, political violence and memory. Başak is the editor of Manual for Conspiracy (Sharjah Art Foundation, 2011) and the co-editor of Waiting for the Barbarians: A Tribute to Edward Said (Verso, 2008).
 
Malavika Jayaram is a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, working broadly in the areas of privacy, identity, free speech and internet policy. For the last few years, she has been looking at the evolution of big data and e-governance projects in India – particularly the world's largest biometric ID project – and their implications for development, freedom, choice and informational self-determination. Previously, Malavika practised law in London and Bangalore. She has been a fellow at the Centre for Internet and Society, Bangalore since 2009, and was a fellow with the Institute for Technology and Society in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for 2014-15.

Avi Singh is a lawyer who is admitted to practice law in California and India. He studied in India, the Netherlands, the UK and the US, and has extensive experience appearing before the international tribunals in Arusha and The Hague. Currently, Avi is practicing in New Delhi, where he specialises in white-collar regulations, particularly those with cross- border implications. He is a faculty member at IUC and UC Hastings JD program.

Bhrigupati Singh is an anthropologist, interested in issues of religion, politics, media and popular culture. He completed his PhD at Johns Hopkins University in 2010 and is currently an assistant professor at Brown and a faculty fellow at the Watson Institute. Bhrigu's recent book, titled Poverty and the Quest for Life: Spiritual and Material Striving in Contemporary Rural India (University of Chicago Press, 2015), was awarded the Joseph W. Elder Prize in the Indian Social Sciences.

Mayur Suresh is lecturer at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. He is completing his PhD at Birkbeck's School of Law, University of London. His thesis is based on an ethnography of terrorism trials in Delhi. Prior to a career in academia, Mayur practiced law in Delhi for several years.

Support
 
The research and documentation for this project are supported by the Alkazi Foundation for the Arts, with additional funding for public programming from Asia Society India Centre.

About Mumbai Art Room

A public charitable trust, Mumbai Art Room exhibits contemporary art, design, and visual culture from India and foreign countries. The organisation provides a non-commercial platform for artistic and curatorial practice, one that is experimental, educational, and as accessible as possible to all audiences. It is registered officially as the Contemporary Arts Trust with the Charity Commissioner's Office of the State of Maharashtra.

For more info, write to: office@mumbaiartroom.org

Location: Mumbai Art Room, Pipewala Building, back gate, Fourth Pasta Lane (opposite Camy Wafers), Colaba, Mumbai 400 005
 
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 11am to 7pm

Website: mumbaiartroom.org
Funding and Support
 
The Mumbai Art Room is supported by Inlaks Shivdasani Foundation, Navajbai Ratan Tata Trust, Sir Ratan Tata Trust, and R & S Nanavati Charitable Trust. Additional funding has been provided by Sunita and Vijay Choraria - ArtC, Priya Jhaveri, Amrita Jhaveri, Reena and Jitish Kallat, and Aaron Schwarz. In-kind support has been generously provided by organizations including Chandon, Christie's, Splendour, Pico, Biswas Consultants, Kala Goda Café, Studio Mumbai, What About Art?, R.R. Oomerbhoy Pvt. Ltd., La Folie, Nandam Realtors, AZB & Partners,  Chatterjee + Lal, Jhaveri Contemporary, Project 88, Lakeeren Gallery, Sakshi Gallery, Nature Morte, Chemould Prescott Road, Exhibit 320, Experimenter Kolkata, and Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke.
 



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