Bani Abidi: Memorial to Lost Words (4 stars)

This article is from 2016

Bani Abidi: Memorial to Lost Words

A tribute to Indian soldiers who fought in WWI

Like so many artistic projects that have emerged recently that are inspired by the centenary of WWI, Bani Abidi's project Memorial to Lost Words seeks to remember stories that the history books forgot. The censored letters of Indian soldiers on the frontline and the sorrowful folk songs of the loved ones they left behind, calling out to them, are Abidi's material for this new sound work.

These are messages that in most cases failed to reach their destination one hundred years ago, so the work is as cathartic as it is poignant. Through the re-staging of the old songs by contemporary Pakistani folk singers and a poetic appropriation of the letters by the writer Amarjit Chandan, the words are brought back to life.

English-speaking audiences rely on the translations of the songs from Punjabi to appreciate the full impact of this work. Two texts are positioned discreetly on lecterns facing each other in the centre of the Royal High School's debating chamber, where the work is installed. Their positioning is somewhat confrontational, which is clearly not Abidi's intention, as when the words are set to song, they warmly embrace each other filling this austere venue with sound and energy.

Old Royal High School, Regent Road, until 28 Aug, free.

Bani Abidi – Memorial to Lost Words

  • 4 stars

Bani Abidi is interested in the language of power, often using humour to unpick the strategies adopted by politicians to construct and convey their authority. Death at a 30 Degree Angle  (2012), for example, tells the fictional story of a small-time politician, commissioning a monumental self portrait from a renowned…