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This project was successfully funded on January 31, 2015

Bagmati River Arts Project, Kathmandu, Nepal

by Alberto Rey


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Alberto Rey

Bagmati River Art Project (Biological Regionalism Series: Bagmati River, Kathmandu, Nepal)


The Biological Regionalism Series aims to reestablish connections to our environment by reintroducing the idea of “regionalism” to art and science through interdisciplinary art installations. The bodies of water investigated are usually a short walk or drive from the exhibition venue. When a viewer experiences the installation, they begin to create an informed long-term connection to their immediate geographic environment. Through the use of traditional and contemporary mediums such as video, sound, paintings, drawings, informational plaques, water samples, and water data, I work to create thoughtful, aesthetically engaging installations.  These installations are designed to provide opportunities for viewers to the body of water while introducing contemporary theories of aesthetics, the history of urban migration and development and their effects on the environment. When the work is combined with artwork investigating of regions around the world, the viewer begin to create global connections. While the regions investigated are specific, the issues raised are universal. By understanding and connecting one’s own environment, viewers can better sympathize with global environmental challenges.

Project Inception and Support

Towards the end of a recent museum installation that addressed issues related to a polluted river that flows under parts of Buffalo, NY,  David Johnson asked me to consider doing a similar project on the holy but badly polluted sections of the Bagmati River that runs through the middle of Kathmandu. David had business and community connections in Nepal and knew that there was interest in this type of project in the city. They hoped that a similar installation would raise public awareness of the river’s condition and could educate residents and businesses on the need to change historical practices of destructive dumping. Due to the city’s limited finances, there is minimal government oversight, consequently, an important part of the change would need to occur from within the community.

Since our initial discussions, I have been accepted into the Artist-in-Residence Program at the Kathmandu Contemporary Art Centre (KCAC) for next November 2015, to support the creation of paintings, drawings and videos and to collect water data on the Bagmati River. I will also be working with local professional artists and with community and school groups to collect their artwork reflecting their cultural and personal connections to the sacred river. I have received a commitment from Sangeeta Thapa, co-founder and director of the Siddhartha Art Gallery, to exhibit the entire project in her contemporary art gallery in Kathmandu during the Kathmandu International Art Festival in March of 2016. Sangeeta is a prominent figure in the contemporary art community in Nepal and is also a community activist. She is committed to restoring the Bagmati River and is very interested in the project. The Kathmandu International Art Festival is the largest international art event held in Nepal, occurring once every three years and the upcoming festival’s theme is  “City and Urban Issues”.

Details of the Bagamati River Art Project

Part I

The Bagmati River Arts Project consists of three parts. The first part of the project begins in November of 2015 when I travel to Kathmandu to explore and create aesthetic documentation of five different sites along the Bagmati River. The sites are: one site at the headwaters of the river, three sites of UNESCO World Heritage listed temples along the banks of the river in Kathmandu (Gokarneshwar, Guhyeshwari and Pashupatinath) and another site downstream as the river exits the city. I intend to create site-specific videos, drawings, sketchbooks and paintings documenting the landscape and the temples along the river as well as collect scientific data outlining contents and safety levels of the water sampled at these sites. Bilingual (Nepalese/English) informational plaques will also be installed outlining the progression of the city’s urbanization, its effects on the water, progress being made and efforts that could support and extend the improvements. Artwork of local Nepalese artists and students documenting their connections and experiences with the Bagmati River will be included in the installation to bring the community into the installation and to present contrasting aesthetic interpretations of how cultures perceive bodies of water. When I return to the US, I will continue to edit videos, create more artwork and design the bilingual exhibition catalog.

Part II

In March 2016, I will return to Kathmandu to assist in the installation, shoot video footage to finish the documentary of the project and make presentations about the project in the gallery and throughout Kathmandu during the Kathmandu International Art Festival.

Part III

At end of exhibition, I intend to work with Sangeeta Thapa and Tullis Johnson, Curator and Manager of Archives at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, Buffalo, New York, to begin preparations to tour the Bagmati River Art Project. Both are committed to having the project tour internationally and Tullis has extensive experience in organizing, crating, and scheduling touring exhibitions.

Thank You

Your financial support of this project will provide insight into how the Bagmati River became polluted, what are the challenges to its restoration, which efforts have been successful and what else can be done. As with rivers across the globe that carry one of the world’s most valued commodities, water, their pollution is not unique but the successful efforts is unique to each region and that success can benefit diverse global communities. By creating generational awareness for the fragility of our bodies of water we nuture future stewards of our global environmental resources.

I have never asked for assistance for any of my past projects but this is a unique opportunity that I can not accomplish without your assistance. Please check the perk sections of this proposal to see how I would like to show my gratitude for your support.

If the project is overfunded, the funds would be put the costs of touring the exhibition, promoting the project and publishing a second edition of the exhibition publication in the United States. Because of the costs of shipping items to the US from Nepal, most of the first edition will be mailed within Asia and Europe where it will be distributed to appropriate art, cultural and educational institutions as a way of promoting the project and the touring exhibition.

Thank you!!

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    • January 29, 2015 Alberto Rey Artist

      A friend of mine forwarded this to me: Friends of Nepal "The (propane) gas shortage has caused queues as long as 2 kilometres in some parts of Kathmandu. Near one of the main rivers (Bagmati River) the stench from pollution has caused some people to faint."