Course reports

IHME 2022 Commission Report 3#


Third week – about crime and its scene

Learning from Doubt’s third week begins with a meeting with filmmaker and artist Amar Kanwar. Starting from the works mentioned in the previous week, the discussion quickly turns to topical issues. There are similarities between the events on the border between Pakistan and India and the war in Ukraine: both involve a struggle between neighbouring peoples. Questions about how criminal activity between people, but also human crimes against nature, are crucial to this course, as well as to Kanwar’s production in general.

The materials for the third week serve as an introduction to The Sovereign Forest. In the films The Scene of Crime (2011) and A Love Story (2010), the beautiful pictorial narrative is combined with shocking content. The visual dramaturgy of the course follows its slowly building, cumulative nature. For example, in each week’s introductory section, as well as on the course login page, landscape images taken from Kanwar’s films serve as a visual background to the topics covered.


The beginnings of a conversation

The Sovereign Forest deals with themes such as crime and where it takes place, the relationship between humans and land, the economic, political and cultural dimensions of land use, and thought processes based on doubt or uncertainty. In Kanwar’s work, these are interlinked and actively related to each other. This is aslo emphasized when Kanwar talks to course participants. His answers to the questions asked are more beginnings of a conversation or thought-provoking than exhaustive analyses.

Researcher Monika Halkort notes that The Sovereign Forest provides a new framework for the interpretation of crime and for its impact by placing objective and documentary evidence side by side with experienced, lyrically formed evidence. This is profoundly linked to a tradition of narrated poetry, whose evidential value is specifically empirical, and based on the senses, and which has a long and still significant history in India.


The archive and the formulation of thoughts

Cultural studies scholar Stuart Hall spoke of the archive as being constantly in motion and dialogical in relation to the past. According to Kanwar, the archive always also shows what is not there, what we cannot see there. The Sovereign Forest can be seen as an archive that organizes itself over and over again, slowly opening up and articulating its relationship to its surroundings, deliberately, and in line with the theme of the course, starting from uncertainty.

Like Hall, Kanwar emphasizes that doubt is something that causes movement. It is an integral part of his work and also plays an important role in ways of thinking and thought formulation. Learning from Doubt establishes itself as part of the archival character of The Sovereign Forest, which does not ask what we want, but rather what we see, and why.


IHME Helsinki’s intern Eero Karjalainen reported on the progress of Amar Kanwar’s course on IHME Helsinki’s channel throughout the course.