In a recent announcement, New York-based public art non-profit Creative Time revealed the winner of their annual Leonore Annenberg Prize for Art and Social Change. The recipient, Amar Kanwar, is best known for his compelling presentation of contemporary political, social, and environmental issues in India, and will be using the funds awarded to continue working on his current ecologically and socially intensive project titled ‘The Sovereign Forest.’ Now, judging from his history in video art and documentary filmmaking, this comes as no surprise; one of his first documentary projects, the Many Faces of Madness, highlighted anthropogenic ecological deterioration in India. And he has been producing equally compelling and critical work ever since.
Kanwar, who first became interested in video work, ecology, and social change in 1984 after the Union Carbide incident and political shooting of Indira Gandhi, lives and works in New Delhi. He focuses on local Indian politics, economy, ecology, and most interestingly, the intersection of all three. His work seems to culminate in his ‘Sovereign Forest’ project, which ultimately focuses on the “process of destruction [in Odisha, India]…that has its own story…we are seeing it getting larger and vaster, and in some sense, ‘The Sovereign Forest’ is about trying to understand the meaning of this crime.” Smoothly winding through video, sound, and sculpture pieces, the series mourns the societal loss that accompanies ecological loss while simultaneously questioning that contentious relationship. If his most recent exhibition at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park is any indication of the work he will continue to produce with his prize money, Kanwar is certainly one to keep an eye on.
See the Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s short film on the exhibition below.