Dream of Porapara

Brief description of the project

The space is situated in the district of Chittagong on 7000 sq feet of its own land, with basic residency accommodation. The property includes a garden area and a large pond adjacent to the residency house. While rural in the atmosphere, the space is surrounded by the local village and is conveniently located for access from Chittagong International Airport.

The proposed development of the project will encompass the following additions:

Residency space for a total of 5 artists
Media production studio
Print-making studio
Equipped common studio for technical works
Silkscreen studio
Ceramic studio
Alternative gallery and gathering spaces
Information and documents archive and library

Current Facilities (2004-2007)

Residency space

Porapara currently has space for 2 residential artists, with the basic, unequipped studio, sleeping area, and separate bathroom and kitchen. We are in the process of developing this residential facility to accommodate 3 artists in total (estimated completion of work by March 2008).

Print studio

This studio provides facilities for print media, including etching, aquatint, linocut, serigraph, and other experimental technical work related to print. We have already developed the studio space for print media and installed an etching/aquatint printer and some relevant accessories. We expect the facility to be accessible for artists from March 2008.

We currently seek funding to expand the residence to accommodate 5 artists altogether, so we plan to build a new house for an additional 2 artists.

Construction of the new residential house will be based on local and traditional house-building methods – our intention is to match the architectural style with the local village atmosphere, but also to ensure adequate modern facilities for the comfort of artists and technical equipment.

Media art studio

In Chittagong and around the country, media art, including video and experimental digital work, is just starting to develop as a practice. Our art institutions blatantly lack the curriculum, staff experience, and technical facilities to support it. A very few artists have been able to independently organize equipment for collective use, but it is very difficult to access these resources for any degree of experimental production.

There are many artists in Bangladesh who want to work with electronic media but are prevented by the severely limited access to relevant technologies. We, therefore, see it as vital to arrange a proper studio set up for media art in our space. As the rural environment of Porapara provides an ideal situation for quiet, concentrated production, the residency space will be able to supply both the environmental conditions and the technical apparatus to open up these new media for experimentation by a new generation of artists.

We have already started to collect the necessary studio equipment including an HDV video camera, laptop, and digital stills camera, financed from our own funds. We now need to set up a digital editing workstation and other peripheral equipment, and to build clean and secure studio space for this sensitive setup.

Future Development Planned (2009)

Common studio for metal wood and experimental materials

A critical part of the studio space, the common studio will address the problems local artists regularly encounter in sourcing the basic logistical utilities to produce their work. The common studio will consist of a shared workspace equipped with essential tools for a variety of media including wood, metal, and synthetic media. We plan to construct a shed (30ft × 20ft) to house the studio and have already bought some tools to equip it.

Silkscreen studio

We have developed a design for a fully-equipped brick and iron structure (22ft × 15ft) which we plan to develop in 2009.

Ceramic studio

We are committed to also providing access to media that are inexpensive to produce yet supply expansive opportunities for visual expression. We plan to set up a simple ceramic kiln for experimental ceramic and raku work, using traditional burning processes.

Gallery space

There is no space currently in Bangladesh supporting the experimental display of artworks beyond traditionally positioned painting and sculpture, so it is very difficult for artists to experiment with the exhibition format, or to show work produced in non-traditional media. This severely limits options for both artists and audiences to experience a range of contemporary art forms. We plan to establish a gallery to serve those artists seeking the opportunity for experimentation within the gallery space.

Information and documents archive + library

Dedicated space for books, periodicals, internet access, for researchers and resident artists,

Methodology / Implementation of the project

The project will set up one Residency space for 5 artists
Media work studio
Printmaking studio
Equipped common studio for metal wood and experimental materials
Silkscreen studio
Ceramic studio
Public gathering space
Experimental gallery space
Workshop space
Information and documents archive + library
For activities taking place outside a specific funded program at Porapara, the facilities will be made available to artists and the public to use for a very small access/membership fee, as a contribution to ongoing operating and maintenance costs.

The time frame of the project

The development process is ongoing. We have set a target to have the residency space, media studio, print studio, and common studio operable by December of 2008. The ceramic studio, silkscreen studio, archive, public gathering, and gallery space are scheduled for completion in 2009.

The projected output of the project (is it a workshop, a discussion, a showing, etc)

We plan to support the following activities in 2009, on completion of the proposed expansion work.

– 2 artist residency programs (each 2 months long) for up to 2 overseas and 3 regional artists at the same time.

– Within each residency period we plan to organize 6 local workshops for a total of 120 regional artists, craftspeople, and the public.

– A projected 25 regional artists would be able to use the studio facility on a membership basis for their own production.

– Over 500 participants per year will be directly involved with the activity of artists through workshops, residency period by collaborations of different kinds.

– A projected 12 presentation sessions and 5 issue-based discussions, giving approximate attendance of 500 artists, researchers, journalists, art students, school students, and general villagers get a chance to experience a large range of art activities and dialogues.

Our target audience for your project

Our core audience will include artists from the region who have come through Chittagong’s two Art Institutes, practicing artists, and art-lovers in the district. We also will be actively targeting an audience of the general public from the city of Chittagong, as well as artists and art audiences from around the country. People from the village community will be involved at all levels of the program, and we will be working with students from the 2 high schools and 4 primary schools in the area and with cultural organizations in neighboring villages. The other audience we wish to reach is the large number of people who visit the area around Porapara for recreational purposes (sea beach and river).

Finally, we intend to communicate the projects undertaken at Porapara to an international audience of peers engaged in similar practices.

Disseminate information about the project to our target audience:

Posters in art institutes and galleries (Chittagong and nationally); local tea shops, community spaces; email and invitation cards to our own networks of artists, critics, and peer organizations; banners in the tourist areas near to the village; verbal invitations along with local social networks; as well as national and local press releases (newspaper, TV, and radio).

Porapara will also document and develop its own archive through video documentary film, audio recording, photo archive, catalog publications, and website.

Impact on the cultures by engaging with the project:

Porapara space for artists will be the first space in Bangladesh to provide a large number of first-hand opportunities to local artists.

At this time there are no alternative art spaces in Chittagong and no media-art facilities anywhere in Bangladesh with access for visual artists. There are no ceramic or ironwork facilities in the department of Fine Arts at Chittagong University or at Art College, Chittagong. There are additionally no artists’ residency spaces with well-equipped studio facilities anywhere in the country, and no library facilities providing information on contemporary art.

Artists passing their final exam at Chittagong’s 2 major art institutes have currently no options for studio space to continue art practices related to heavy equipment (etching, printing, ceramics, ironwork, or multimedia digital work). An independent space for art production is really a critical need of this time in Chittagong.
Porapara will also supply the first opportunity for Bangladesh artists to work in good facilities outside the metropolitan areas. The unique social and natural setting – in close proximity to the sea beach, riverbank, and natural environment, but also to the international shipping port and the surrounding radical transitions from a traditional rural existence to life on the fringes of a market economy; will provide a total change of concentrated environment for artists who work mainly in the cities.

In terms of the local population, we have been slowly developing relationships with the villagers over the past 3 years and can already witness a developing awareness of art, the opportunity for contact with other cultures, and the possibilities for social change that this can bring. Aside from visitors to our space – and despite the proximity of the international airport and passing tourist traffic – the village Charbasthi is highly isolated from positive cultural influences or visitors from outside the region, so the cultural and social influence Porapara can have is potentially very great.

Our program will bring locals and visitors together in a concentrated way, through collaborations between artists and village craftspeople, direct and varied employment for local labor, the long-running residency periods, and the diverse relationships that can form through these contacts. We are confident of the ability of these situations to create real and long-term exchanges between people of different backgrounds and origins.

An artists lead alternative space

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