Arijit Bhattacharyya
Sea of Forests
Curated by Nuno de Brito Rocha
5 July – 26 August 2023

Arijit Bhattacharyya is always looking at the present. This is the tool of his artistic research, which critically engages with both history and imagined futures. Arijit Bhattacharyya is a storyteller. This is how he creates his poetic works, which range from installation, textile pieces, drawing and painting, film, performance, workshops as well as cooking. All of these emphasize collective experiences and the search for interaction and dialogue. The developed works are often collaborative projects involving various local communities from the artist’s social environment in Germany and his native India. Interpersonal exchange and the process of making are always at the center of his practice. Through social engagement, design interventions in urban and rural spaces, large murals, lecture performances, and cooking sessions, Arijit Bhattacharyya explores different narratives of resistance and disobedience, socio-political history and marginalization, and their impact on our cultural practices.

Sea of Forests imagines a future where humans and nature are intertwined. The artist proposes an alternative narrative about progress and development that does not lead to a total destruction of all resources, but one in which all beings coexist. Bhattacharyya’s idea of the future is shaped with and by the natural world and acknowledges us as an integral part of it. By doing so, the artist actively chooses a future based on close connections instead of mass destruction, while looking into different types of settlements and distribution of land. Understanding history as a succession of closely connected events, the artist points to a cause-consequential view of facts, especially regarding territorial and colonial power. Furthermore, Bhattacharyya comments on colonialism departing from trees and plants especially related to their use in South Asia’s history.

This exhibition presents sculptural works in wood and fabric, a two-channel video as well as a painting. Right before the main room where the sculptures are placed, a video installation contrasts an animation of an imagined posthuman manifestation with a performance done with the fabric works: a backpack, a tent, a boat–a device that is all in one, a survival gadget, a convertible living structure. Carried and used by a wandering man, we accompany his movements on a train or through landscapes devastated by deforestation and natural exploitation. Perhaps a sign of hope, he carries a banana plant inside of the backpack. A symbol for movement, this floating device/tent looks as if it flies right above the visitors’ heads in the next room, forcing one’s views into new perspectives. It stands for a heterotopic space, a space of transition for dwelling, and it serves as a memorial of the past and the present. 

The uncanny wooden sculptures are no strangers: they appear on the video installation in form of the posthuman manifestations, merging both human and natural attributes. One of them features human body parts with banana leaves and fruits; the other one has leaves of the taro plant. Those plants are two of the most important ones that helped millions of people survive during the Bengal famine of 1943, which resulted from both natural and colonial exploitation. These two hybrid-human and plant figures display a possible future of a new human species on Earth. Here, humans become plants as an act of resistance against territorial and space colonialism, that through natural destruction makes Earth inhabitable for all.

They are both facing the third wooden piece that depicts a seating figure eating coal: Tar Baro. Tar Baro is a deity who protects wild bison from being hunted and is a character mentioned by the Bengali author Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay in his seminal novel আরণ্য  (Aranyak, eng.: of the forest). It portrays the ecological devastation that has occurred because of coal mining in the mineral-rich states of India, another product of systematic abuse. On the walls, around the wood-carved works that were done together with the artist’s collaborators in India, a painting displays the natural, industrial, and human landscapes all in one image: a time-portrait of past conflicts and future possibilities.

Arijit Bhattacharyya uses storytelling as a methodology to create new narratives and to raise untold stories. Whereas history and the way it is written and remembered have always been subject to exploitation by the power relations of the present, the future on the contrary offers the possibility of constructing a world that challenges, dismantles, and counter the propositions offered by both the past and the present. Arijit Bhattacharyya’s Sea of Forests deals with memory, reception, emotion, creativity, and the development of an alternative portrayal of history. It is socially and culturally active. It engages and shares knowledge by creating together, while being humble and accessible.

With Sea of Forests Arijit Bhattacharyya is perhaps optimistically asking us: if we evolved from nature, why can’t we develop back to it? Or even: if we claimed nature to us thus far, why can’t it reclaim itself back from us?

Text by Nuno de Brito Rocha.


The exhibition is curated by Nuno de Brito Rocha and was made in collaboration with Binita Limbani, Shibyan Halder, Suvojit Roy, Soumik Ghosh, Swagata Bhattacharyya, Santanu Dey, Sourav Das, Sk Atiar Rahaman, Joydip Bagui, Prosenjit Ghosh, Arijit Achariya, Arup Halder, Subradip Ojha, Sujon Ojha, Sumon Ojha, Somansu Ghosh, Joy Malik, and Mokai Ali Mallick.


Arijit Bhattacharyya was born in 1994 in Bally, India, and lives and works in Weimar. He currently teaches at the Bauhaus University, Weimar’s international masters degree program Public Art and New Artistic Strategies. Bhattacharyya holds a master’s degree in fine arts from the same university as well as another master’s degree in visual arts from Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, India. He had his first institutional solo exhibition From Forests We Are And Forests We Will Be at the Kunstverein Braunschweig (2022). Current and recent group exhibitions include Walle Walle*, Goethe-Nationalmuseum, Weimar and Casa di Goethe, Rome, (2023), ÜBER LEITUNGEN . INFRA STRUCTURES, Halle 14, Leipzig (2023), dhak dhak ho-hum ah eekff iii ie, Röda Sten Konsthall, Gothenburg (2022); Owned by Others – Part 2, Berlin (2021), Manifesto for Clay, Gothenburg International Biennial for Contemporary Art (2021) and Owned by Others, Berlin (2020). Arijit has also participated in exhibitions and curatorial projects at Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India; Index, Berlin; Arts of the Working Class, Berlin; Goethe Institut, Thailand; Serendipity Arts Festival, India; Khoj International Artists Association, India; Photo Kathmandu, Nepal and Haus der Statistik, Berlin. He had a solo presentation at ChertLüdde, Berlin’s “Bungalow” (2021).

Nuno de Brito Rocha is a curator, art historian, and mediator from São Paulo living in Berlin. Between 2021 and 2023 he was director interim of the Kunstverein Braunschweig, where he curated Arijit Bhattacharyya’s first institutional solo exhibition, among others. Prior to this he worked at the Berlinische Galerie, Berlin’s Museum of Modern Art, where he was curator and project manager of the extensive outdoor exhibition project Park Platz, curatorial assistant to the director as well as curator of the museum’s video art program. In 2019 he was associate curator of the Third Biennial of Contemporary Art Anozero’19 in Coimbra, Portugal. Nuno de Brito Rocha holds a master’s degree in Art History from the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (2017). He was awarded a DAAD grant to research the thesis The Floating Museum by Lynn Hershman Leeson at Stanford University in the United States, and qualified as an architect and urbanist from the University of São Paulo (FAUUSP) and the Technische Universität Berlin (TU Berlin).

All Photos by Marjorie Brunet Plaza