Artist-in-Residence: From Kassel to Dhaka

For Kunsthochschule Kassel graduate Alexandra Münzner, it was off to Dhaka after graduation. Dhaka is the capital of Bangladesh. With around 10.3 million inhabitants (agglomeration), it is the largest city in the country and one of the largest cities in Asia. Münzner lived there from January to May 2023 for an artist-in-residence program at Britto Arts Trust.

Münzner met the artist:in-residence collective Britto Arts Trust during documenta 15 (2022) in Kassel. She was employed on the production team in the documenta Halle and worked closely with the collective. "I was particularly involved with Britto Arts Trust's cooking project PAKGHOR - the social kitchen," Münzner says. She adds, "Mahbub and Lipi, the co-founders of Britto, I had invited to my performance 'Unsafe Desire'." As a result, the collective offered her an artist-in-residence research program in Dhaka to conduct research on her project 'Unsafe Desire'. Britto's artistic practice includes addressing the socio-political upheaval in Bangladesh and supporting interdisciplinary practitioners, groups and networks. He provides a local and international forum for professional artists to meet, discuss and experiment.

In her long-term research project 'Unsafe Desire,' Münzner explores the challenges faced by women, transwomen, and people with female identities in a sexist society. "I analyze the ways in which gender stereotypes and sexist narratives affect lives-especially emotional, physical, and sexual violence," the artist explains. During her residency, the artist developed a deep understanding of what 'Unsafe Desire' means in the realities of women's lives in Bangladesh through interviews, research and observations. "Within the country, I traveled extensively and researched independently. In Mymensingh, Gaibandha, Cox's Bazar, Moheshkhali I interviewed activists, teachers and artists. I also did a lot of drawing and developed my exhibition concept, which I then implemented together with Britto Arts Trust," Münzner says.

In her solo exhibition from May 5-7, 2023, Münzner showed interviews on a 2-channel video installation that she had conducted with Khushi Kabir (feminist and activist), Hochemin Islam (activist) and a lecturer in criminology at the University of Dhaka during her stay, among others. The exhibition was accompanied, among other things, by a wall collage on which Münzner's research results and quotes from 'Sultana's Dream' by Begum Rokeya from 1905 and collected sketches were displayed. In the exhibition, the artist also gives an insight about her personal impressions: "The linocuts represent my guest experiences at a Rakhain wedding in Moheskhali," the graduate explains.

In 2022, Münzner completed her secondary school teaching degree in art and German. She then began studying "Film and Moving Image" at the Kunsthochschule Kassel. In Germany, she is planning an exhibition with artist talk about her residency in Bangladesh. The budding filmmaker is also looking forward to her new project: "For my graduation film, I'm traveling back to Bangladesh. Together with a Britto Arts Trust member, I want to film a story based on true events."

Looking back, the artist is grateful: "Britto Arts Trust made the residency possible for me and always supported me. The collective treated me like a family member, especially Mahbub and Lipi were great mentors," Münzner enthuses. She encourages her fellow students to take part in an artist-in-residence program: "It's a great opportunity to think outside the box and deepen your own artistic understanding," Münzner emphasizes.

(Text in German: Çiğdem Özdemir)