Wounds Healed, Tales Etched | দাগ

Sumi Anjuman | Solo show

17.05.2024 - 08.09.2024
Opening: 17.05.2024, 6–9 pm

As part of the programme of the düsseldorf photo+ Biennale for Visual and Sonic Media, the Philara Collection is presenting the first solo show in Germany by Sumi Anjuman (b. 1989, Bogura, Bangladesh). Anjuman’s works are often developed in a multi-voiced process of dialogue between the artist and the people whose story she tells. Anjuman sees her artistic practice as part of a non-violent protest against patriarchal, gender- and sexuality-based repression, which is also an element of a collaborative healing process ‘healing through creation’. The artist works with the medium of photography, which she expands with drawings, embroidery, and archival materials, often shown configured as installations.

The exhibition brings together two photographic series, which have been developed over several years of engagement with various individuals directly affected by the issues addressed. Somewhere Else Than Here is a series of portrait photographs of people in the LGBTQ+ community in Bangladesh, whose visibility both within and outside conservative Muslim society is extremely limited. Queer people in Bangladesh suffer from severe repression in both the social and legal spheres, in the latter case particularly stemming from laws dating from the era of British colonial rule. This means it is almost impossible for them to own their identities openly without having to live in constant fear of discrimination or violence. Taking her many conversations as a starting point, Anjuman’s series visualises imaginative formulations for hope, love, freedom, and security and confronts fear, isolation, and dehumanisation. Her photographs are augmented by items from a material archive of objects given to Anjuman by the people she portrayed, which bear witness to their experiences.

The second series, River Runs Violet, takes as its theme sexual violence and rape culture in patriarchal structures. Despite advances in equal rights, women in Bangladesh are particularly severely subjected to gender-based violence. Anjuman worked closely on this theme with Zana (pseudonym), a survivor of multiple sexual abuse and rape. In a process of dialogic exchange, a visual conversation that interweaves the perspectives and experiences of both participants was created. Various materials and techniques, including photography, found images, embroidery, text, and drawings are used to address the individual crime and, in particular, the broader socio-political background.

Sumi Anjuman is currently based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She attained a master's degree in 'Photography & Society' from the Royal Academy of Art, The Hague, The Netherlands. Previously, she acquired a three-year diploma in 'Photography' from Pathshala South Asian Media Institute, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Her works have been shown internationally, including at the Dhaka Art Summit, Bangladesh (2023), at Paris Photo (2022), and at the Noorderlicht International Photo Festival, The Netherlands (2021). In 2022, she won a Carte Blanche Students award at Paris Photo.


Exhibition curators: Julika Bosch, Hannah Niemeier

Curatorial assistant: Dana M. A. Bulic

In Abwesenheit

Collection Presentation – Photography

03.03.2024 - 08.09.2024
Opening: 3 March 2024, 2–6 pm

Tamibé Bourdanné, Olafur Eliasson, Jan Paul Evers, Jef Geys, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Thomas Grünfeld, Germaine Kruip, Taiyo Onorato & Nico Krebs, Martin Parr, Émilie Pitoiset, Man Ray, Ugo Rondinone, Thomas Ruff, Thomas Struth, Stephen Shore, Martina Sauter, Tamary Kudita, et al.


‘A photograph is both a pseudo-presence and a token of absence. Like a wood fire in a room, photographs – especially those of people, of distant landscapes and faraway cities, of the vanished past – are incitements to reverie.’

Susan Sontag, On Photography, 1977


The Philara Collection is pleased to present In Abwesenheit, a curated exhibition of photography. The works shown span a period of almost a century, starting from the beginnings of surrealist photography in the 1920s, moving forward by way of the black and white photographs of the 1960s and 1970s through to contemporary iterations of digital and analogue photography. The works shown are united in their intensive engagement with questions of absence, voids and lack. They pose a diverse range of questions, interrogating the physical qualities of photography and its technical requirements, as well as broader aspects such as speculative fiction, belonging, nostalgia and ambiguity.


Some of the works shown concentrate on the absence of a camera cameraless photography. In his phg series, Thomas Ruff uses digital renderings to compose images modelled on photograms. Germaine Kruip’s installation of a mirror and the light it reflects uses simple geometric forms and the interplay of light and shadow to evoke intimate moments of collective viewing, with no use of the medium of photography whatsoever. Despite this, Untitled Circle, with its elliptical mirror surface, calls to mind associations with the origins of photographic apparatus, such as surfaces polished to a mirror finish for daguerreotypes, or the mirror reflection of the camera obscura.


Other works were created specifically with an intentional lack of context in relation to the identity and temporal location of the people they depict. Although photographs perpetuate a fragmentary detail of a moment in time, an event or a person, they are nevertheless detached from their reality and the context of their creation.

In her multi-part installation Giselle, named after the protagonist of the ballet of the same name, a woman who becomes a dancing ghost after her suicide, Émilie Pitoiset, for instance, transforms found photos of unknown people, taken in the period between the 1920s and 1950s, into further images referencing the tragic central character of the piece.
In her collage Florence & Constantin (Jardin Brancusi), Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster recreates a photograph of the photographer Florence Meyer Homolka[1], taken by Constantin Brancusi at his studio in 1932, placing herself in the position of Homolka.


Others take a different approach, concentrating on manipulation of images, making playful use of their capacity for modification. The continual development of technical and digital tools for image processing erodes the concept of the integrity of the image and subverts photography itself. This opens up more space on the periphery for fantastic speculation, which could, for instance, be taken by imaginative exploration around issues of gender. Ugo Rondinone's exhibition I don't live here anymore, from which the edition of the same name originates, describes the search for a deeper understanding of one's own self-identity. Rondinone portrays himself in his self-representation as a timeless, androgynous cyborg, whose prosthetic hand almost nostalgically indicates times gone by rather than an uncertain future.
In her series Sight Unseen, Tamary Kudita examines the extent to which selective historical narratives shape the reality of Black people's lives today. She uses strategies of appropriation and recontextualisation, as well as subversion and overlaying of historically white-dominated and contemporary aesthetics, to make the complexity of identity visible and to undermine simplistic, colonially influenced interpretations of Black culture. Her models wear dresses in apparently Victorian styles made from African fabrics. This gesture is not only symbolic of the diversity of identities, but also subverts the social status of clothing as a marker of belonging.



Exhibition curators: Julika Bosch, Hannah Niemeier

Curatorial assistant: Dana M. A. Bulic


[1] Also known as Florence Meyer, Florence Homolka a.o.

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