14 Jan — 21 May 2023Buy tickets
As a resident of Kolkata, Indian photographer Arko Datto feels the threat of climate change every day. In the nearby Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna delta, the ground is literally disappearing beneath the inhabitants’ feet. Their houses are being carried away by the sea, which is claiming more and more land. In his series Where Do We Go When the Final Wave Hits and Terra Mutata, Datto depicts the daily nightmare of the delta’s 300 million inhabitants in an almost nocturnal dystopian manner. The fact that these people contribute the least to climate change makes the images all the more poignant. Datto’s work is a clear reminder that the climate crisis is not a thing of the future but has been with us for some time. The world is on the brink of a humanitarian disaster of a magnitude beyond comprehension. Fotomuseum Den Haag presents a selection of images from these series in Kings of a Bereft Land, Datto’s first solo exhibition in the Netherlands.
The series Where Do We Go When the Final Wave Hits and Terra Mutata are part of the larger project Shunyo Raja (Kings of a Bereft Land) in which Datto documented the dwindling mangrove forests and rising water levels in the Sundarbans between 2017 and 2020. Almost nowhere else in the world are the consequences of climate change as clearly visible as here. Datto consciously places the inhabitants of the delta at the centre to his work. He wants to show how devastating the effects of rising sea levels are for the livelihoods of these communities.
Where Do We Go When the Final Wave Hits
Datto’s visual language can best be described as dystopian, a mood that is reinforced by the photographic techniques he employs. The photographs from the series Where Do We Go When the Final Wave Hits have the feel of a technicolour nocturnal dreamscape, employing flash photography to take the viewer deeper into the experiential world of the Sundarbans’ inhabitants. We see buildings slowly disappearing into the waves, trees toppling into the water, people desperately trying to save their belongings. Meanwhile, the rain continues to fall against the eerie backdrop of a brightly coloured evening sky.
In the series Terra Mutata, Datto takes the visualisation of the catastrophe one step further by shooting only at night, when the darkness manifests itself as an all-powerful enemy. Combining this approach with an experimental use of full-spectrum and infrared photography results in images with a surreal appearance. Datto’s use of infrared technology draws a parallel between the devastating effects of climate change and war zones, where this technique has long been used to detect the enemy at night.
The exhibition presents a selection of approximately twenty images from the series Where Do We Go When the Final Wave Hits and Terra Mutata, shown in large format light boxes, giving the bright colours an extra dimension. Kings of a Bereft Land is Datto’s first solo exhibition in the Netherlands. The exhibition fits within the Fotomuseum Den Haag’s programming, in which depicting the climate crisis is an important spearhead.
Arko Datto (1986, Kolkata, India) is an artist, lecturer and curator. He uses photography, video and installation art to investigate and question the meaning and impact of images in the digital age, while simultaneously playing the role of an observer and critical commentator on contemporary issues. His photographs have been published in Time, National Geographic, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Trouw, de Volkskrant, Vrij Nederlands amongst others. His work has been exhibited at venues around the world, including SFO Museum (USA), Hamburger Bahnhof (DE), Museum für Angewandte Kunst (DE), Galleri Image (DK), Unseen Amsterdam (NL), Photo London (UK). He has published three photo books: Pik-nik (Editions Le bec en l’air, 2018, FR), Mannequin (Edizioni L’artiere, 2018. IT) and Snakefire (Edizioni L’artiere, 2021, IT). He co-curated the Chennai Photo Biennale 2021 and is represented by East Wing Gallery, Doha.
This exhibition has been made possible in part by the ASN Bank