ARKO DATTO | OBSCURA ARTIST IN RESIDENCE 2016
WHAT NEWS OF THE SNAKE THAT LOST ITS HEART IN THE FIRE?
A PHOTOGRAPHIC ESSAY BY ARKO DATTO
ARTIST IN RESIDENCE, OBSCURA FESTIVAL 2016
ABOUT THE PROGRAMME
The OBCURA Festival of Photography Artist In Residence Programme is an important artistic and cultural programme for Penang. The programme enables some of the most prolific photographers of our time to spend a substantial amount of time in Penang to try and understand it and create a visual documents in their time as residents. The contributions of these artists provide our contemporary society an opportunity to reflect, while providing a substantial portal to the past for future generations to come. The work that is produced out of these programmes become part of our visual heritage and a means to communicate to the world about who we are and how we have come to understand our own lives and that of others. We are very happy to have Arko Datto, a prolific young photographer from Calcutta to be our first resident artist.
This programme could not have been realised without the support of Angela Hijjas and Hotel Penanga (while it’s art programme was then managed by Rimbun Dahan). Additional thanks to Syar S. Alia for your help in facilitating the programme and Jason Chor at J&A Imaging for your professionalism in printing the exhibition. And lastly, to Arko Datto for your vision, compassion, intellect and humanity.
WHAT NEWS OF THE SNAKE THAT LOST ITS HEART IN THE FIRE is an astute pictorial observation of a conflict that lies at the heart of the island of Penang as it tries to take a step forward into the future while struggling to keep its other foot firmly rooted in its rich past. Taking the Snake (or the serpent, or dragon) as a metaphor for tradition and Fire as a metaphor for change and renewal, Arko Datto captures the fragility of this flux with a compassionate heart and an eye that is ever-searching for meaning. This visual poem by one of the most striking and powerful photographers of our time, is a photographic prose dedicated to Penang and its people.
My aim with photography is to question what it means to be a photographer in the digital age while simultaneously playing the role of observer and commentator on critical issues. I pursue narratives on seemingly disparate topics- forced migration, surveillance in the digital panopticon, disappearing islands, nocturnal realms and psychosomatic stress of captive animals to name a few. Although every narrative I explore is separate and different from the next, together they form threads of inquiry into the existential dilemmas of our times. By incorporating and developing diverse visual languages and styles, I want to push the boundaries of both still and moving images. I was on my way to a doctorate in theoretical sciences before I decided to change course. Apart from working on my own visual projects, I also enjoy curating the works of others.
All images © Arko Datto.
Gallery Photos © Tang Chun Cheuh / OBSCURA Festival