Sunday, 1 October, 2023

Bangabandhu Military Museum:

Deconstructed Wall Art Makes an Open-Air Art Gallery

Major Mohammad Sazzad Hossain Bhuiyan, AEC

Bangabandhu Military Museum has become one of the most beautiful places to see a great variety of eye-popping pieces of urban art. Use of architectural surfaces in the dichotomy of construction and deconstruction, a new form of art named ‘Deconstructed Wall Art’ portrayed the history of Bangladesh. Walking around Bangabandhu Military Museum, even for an afternoon, this striking form of wall art will definitely make a feel of a veritable open-air art gallery. It showcases the art of our heroic Liberation War and the Armed Forces of Bangladesh born through the Liberation War. This carving technique of deconstructed wall art in the form of ‘Scratching the Surface’ is hailed as one of the most mesmerising approaches of art all over the world. Using construction materials as a painting tool, a group of Bangladeshi young artists renders architectural surfaces to narrate the story of the struggle for our Independence and to portray the contribution of the Armed Forces towards nation-building. With the use of construction tools like hammers, chisels and drills, artists sculpted the stencilled fragments to create surfaces, facets and layers to illustrate the storyline.

Deconstructed wall art is poetic, complex and ambitious. It penetrates through layers of dirt and concrete to set free the images hidden beneath the spaces. By drilling away concrete plasters, relief forms of art are revealed to draw the outlines. It creates most of the sketches into three colours provided with depth – similar to a stencil. This carving process begins with chisels, hammers, drills, etching acid, bleach and other tools. By etching, scratching and carving walls, deconstructed wall art can be labelled destructive, but this work, in the form of construction, creates a story on the wall.

Artistic approach and technique

The walls of Bangabandhu Military Museum became colourful through the evolution of Bangladesh, which tells the story of the Bangladesh Armed Forces’ contribution to the Liberation War and nation-building. Artists were interested in walls brimming with history instead of adding extra layers to the walls. Artists were interested in removing in order to reveal. With this scratching-the-surface technique, artists carved the portraits of the Liberation War and Bangladesh Armed Forces onto the walls, which have given a great value to these bare walls of the Bangabandhu Military Museum.


Deconstructed wall art at the entry of Bangabandhu Military Museum

Before starting the carving process, the artists trace out portraits with paint. With the help of chisels, hammer drills and other tools, artists started to scratch the surface of the wall successively revealing the different layers that constitute it. The approach may seem abrupt and violent at first, but the result gains in poetry and expressivity little by little, a portrait is revealed. Different expressions and emotions emanate from these portraits, which express how Bangladesh came out through a bloody war of Liberation. The chemistry of daylight, light and shade during the night accentuates the depth of these arts. With this work, artists, therefore, have given an identity to the wall. These artworks show the close relationship between the Liberation War and Bangladesh Armed Forces.

This work is not limited to walls. Artists explored and experimented with other techniques and mediums of art i.e. murals, cubist drawing, terracotta, iron sculpture etc. All of these artworks share a common point:  showing the reciprocal influences between the Liberation War and the Bangladesh Armed Forces. Deconstructed art is to portray the story. People know the story, but to make it visible for people to feel proud of it is connected to bringing stories, almost like an archaeological process. The new generations will visit this museum to feel proud of being the bearer of the spirit of our great Liberation War. That is how we should never forget the struggle our mass people and Armed Forces went through.

Deconstructivism and Deconstructed Art

The idea of deconstructed art was generated from the theory of deconstructivism, which characterises fragmentation, structure’s surface, shapes and forms. Deconstructivist art or architecture aims to perplex the visitor, at first sight. The initial visual ambiance of deconstructivism is the chaotic, unorthodox and mind-bending shape of a structure. This fragmented style of art began in the late 1980s and developed in the form of postmodernism. Bernard Tschumi, among the pioneers of deconstructivism, widely drew attention at the architectural competition Parc de la Villette in 1982. Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, Zaha Hadid and Peter Eisenman were also the eminent figures of the deconstructivism movement.

The term ‘deconstructivism’ was first introduced by French philosopher Jacques Derrida, which denotes constructing something in the form of deconstruction. It interprets fundamental feature breaks into pieces. By destroying the basic and traditional framework of art, deconstructivism promotes the idea of rational structuring with cubic and angular shapes and designs. The Guggenheim Museum by Frank Gehry in Bilbao, Spain is a great example of deconstructivism. To elevate conceptual art, architects and musicologists revolutionised to get out from the orthodox thinking about museums.

The deconstructed wall art was pioneered by a Portuguese young artist Alexander Farto who first painted walls with removal techniques. To crust concrete façade, he uses construction tools (i.e. hammers, picks, etc.) to chip away the surface. Instead of choosing brush, spray or markers, he chose tools that can be used both to build and destroy. It inspired him to create a new dimension of urban art. While roaming around the cities (i.e. Moscow, Rome, London, Portugal and New York City), anyone passing without noticing deconstructed wall art would be an injustice to the walls representing the message of contemporary issues.


The writer is a serving military officer