Highlights: A Utopian Stage
at Dhaka Art Summit ’18

Archaeology of the Final Decade launched its most ambitious and expansive exhibition to date at Dhaka Art Summit ’18, (2 – 10 February 2018) in the form of A Utopian Stage – a multifaceted project comprising an archival exhibition and timeline, a live performance programme and installation, and a film programme.

Caligula, Albert Camus (playwright), Arby Ovanessian (director), Kargah-e Namayesh – Persepolis, 1974. Courtesy of Mehdi Khonsari / Archaeology of the Final Decade

A Utopian Stage explores the reverberations of 20th century modernist universalisms, taking the Festival of Arts, Shiraz-Persepolis (1967-1977) as a case study and point of departure. In its manifestation at Dhaka Art Summit ’18, the nine-day programme journeyed through modernism’s euphoric drives: ideals of progress, openness, emancipation, inclusivity, and the overarching notion of a unity of disunities.

A Utopian Stage was presented in four zones:

Zone 1: A Cultural Atlas: beyond the bounds on the other side

Installation view DAS’18. Photograph by Emma Sumner. Courtesy of DAS’18 and Archaeology of the Final Decade.

A Utopian Stage provides a space of international modernity, liberated from the enlightenment of the ever dynamic West. It re-articulates the concept of festival as a cultural atlas and restates the importance of authentic artistic expression amidst a growing ‘third world-ism’, through which knowledge can be exchanged across alternative (often non-European) plateaus.

Installation view, DAS’18. Photograph by Emma Sumner. Courtesy of DAS’18 and Archaeology of the Final Decade.


Zone 2: thrust open the heavens and start anew; Excavated Archive: Festival of Arts, Shiraz-Persepolis

A Utopian Stage engages in a process of global ‘reorientation’, through which a nexus of international cultures can be understood and embraced. Subverting the single ‘reading’ of West to East into a more cyclical model, engaging in cultural negotiations from the East to East, East to West, South to East, South to South constructing a panoramic exchange of global artistic discourse.

A Utopian Stage wields the transcendental possibilities of open space to shift the gaze from horizontal to a modern vertical, or cyclical axis. The audience is removed from the claustrophobic European theatre space and flung into an open and democratic arena, with the reflexive potential to gaze beyond and towards the future. Towards the stars.

Installation view, DAS’18. Photograph by Pablo Bartholomew. Courtesy of DAS’18 and Archaeology of the Final Decade.
Installation view, DAS’18. Photograph by Emma Sumner. Courtesy of DAS’18 and Archaeology of the Final Decade.


Zone 3: to be free is to lose sight of the shore
– Film Programme

Archaeology of the Final Decade curates an eclectic selection of films which echo and reflect the themes at the heart of A Utopian Stage, both aesthetically and politically, from the revolutionary to the existential.

The programme conflated artist and feature films, video documentations of live performances and historical documentaries to realise an ambivalent, universal stage where ideas and impulses can flourish.

Courtesy of DAS’18 and Archaeology of the Final Decade.

THE HIP-HOP WALTZ OF EURYDICE (video work, 18 min, 1990) – Reza Abdoh


Zone 4: below the levels where differences appear – Performance Programme

Archaeology of the Final Decade presents below the levels where differences appear, a performance installation, which is the first iteration of an ongoing transnationally roving amphitheatre, as part of A Utopian Stage. Artists, performers and filmmakers are inclusively incorporated within a collective arena of experimentation echoing the progressive pitch of the Festival of Arts, Shiraz-Persepolis (1967-77) and the highs and lows of universalist utopian ideals. Amidst resurgent forces of cultural and political reactionism around the world, below the levels… proclaims a radical site of collective exchange.

At Dhaka Art Summit 2018, below the levels… drew upon the music, theatre, dance and politics that informed the utopian aspirations and contradictions of the original festival.

Performance selection:

Courtesy of DAS’18 and Archaeology of the Final Decade.

LIKE WATER ON HOT ROCKS (2018) An inaugural performative collaboration between Vali Mahlouji and Goshka Macuga, in which a procession of known characters from the Festival of Arts, Shiraz-Persepolis protest and occupy. Performed as part of A Utopian Stage curated by Vali Mahlouji / Archaeology of the Final Decade.

Courtesy of DAS’18 and Archaeology of the Final Decade.

PURITY (2013) (Voice and Gamelan) – Hassan Khan
What is it that is so comforting about the narrator’s voice? And is conflict always predicated on some sort of agreement? What does the hammer strike when it does? And why do I hate this word yet choose to speak of it? Performed as part of A Utopian Stage curated by Vali Mahlouji / Archaeology of the Final Decade.

Courtesy of DAS’18 and Archaeology of the Final Decade.

HARANO SUR (LOST TUNE) (Performance with 30 musicians and 30 harmoniums) – Reetu Sattar
How do we encapsulate time via our shared past? This performance engages us with the sound we grew up with in South Asia, simultaneously recognising the receding path into so-called ‘modernity.’ This project is co- commissioned by the Samdani Art Foundation and Liverpool Biennial, in association with Archaeology of the Final Decade and the New North and South performed as part of A Utopian Stage curated by Vali Mahlouji / Archaeology of the Final Decade.

Courtesy of DAS’18 and Archaeology of the Final Decade.

ENEJ (DANCE) (2018) Collaborating with the Indigenous Santal people, this performative dance and video series breaks down language barriers through a process of body movements and participatory dances, telling stories about life, spirituality, and culture, to create a bridge between city and local dialects, cultures and lost languages. Performed as part of A Utopian Stage curated by Vali Mahlouji / Archaeology of the Final Decade.


Texts

A Utopian Stage
in Dhaka Art Summit ’18 Exhibition Guide, ed. Diana Campbell Betancourt, Emma Sumner and Neha Choksi (Dhaka: Dhaka Art Summit ’18, Samdani Art Foundation, 2018), 143-153

Read the text
Read the complete catalogue

19th January 2018