Nature Morte, Dhan Mill Compound and Poorvi Marg
19th July to 18th August 2022
Nature Morte’s Infinite Reminders, curated by Srinivas Aditya Mopidevi presents a tightly edited show that explores the idea of the horizon as a site of political imagination. As a fictive line that also represents a point of infinity, the thematic brings together artists from across the world and works spanning from 1997 to the present.
Before entering the gallery in the Dhan Mill compound, we are greeted with Rirkrit Tiravanija’s white flag that bears the question/statement “Do we dream under the same sky” (with the verso in Hindi). Within the gallery, in the audio-visual piece Touch (2002), Janine Antoni walks across a tight rope set against the ocean. As her weight pushes the rope down, it seems as if she is walking on water. Though tentative and precarious, Antoni’s act becomes one that blurs distinctions and highlights the often-fictive nature of perception.
Bahar Behbahani’s audio-visual series Mother River (2022) is presented like a waveform, evoking the path of a river. While each video represents a different river, the experience of viewing the installation reminds one of the idiom attributed to a quote by Heraclitus: “One never steps into the same river twice”, but also of the possibility that we may no longer have clean rivers to step into. Echoing this ecological preoccupation, Vibha Galhotra’s Wounded 3 and Wounded 6 (2019) appear as imprints on the ground. Constructed from Korean Hanji paper, the spherical form of the pieces alludes to the Earth, and thus the imprints as “wounds” become scars and lesions on its surface. While the role of human beings and the age of the anthropocene are highlighted in these residues, Wounded also brings to mind other wounds on the surface of the body/nation, invoked in the past by an artist like Somnath Hore.
Varunika Saraf’s Untitled (2017) ruminates on the political realities of our time. A star burst/black hole made of glass beads dominates the painting, while tiny figures of activists appear below, as if part of a constellation. Surrounded by tiny, dot-like stars, Rohith Vemula as one of the figures appears as a being made up of stardust, reminding us that we cannot and should not reduce people to identities constructed through social discrimination. Harking back to the question one encountered upon entering the exhibition “Do we dream under the same sky”, it serves as a reminder of what is at stake. The metaphor of the horizon employed by Mopidevi in Infinite Reminders thus offers a nuanced imagination of possible pasts, presents and futures, as it urges us to think about the thin line that divides.
Anant Art Gallery at Bikaner House
28th July - 8th August 2022
On view at Bikaner House, Anant Art Gallery’s show Simulacrum, curated by Arushi Vats brought together 14 artists from across South Asia to reflect on our contemporary political ethos. Along with the curatorial note, the wall text of the show carries a Rainer Maria Rilke poem that begins with the words “Forget, forget, and let us live in the now…” The show plays with such acts of erasure as moments of concealing or foregrounding an event.
In Ashfika Rahman’s Files of the Disappeared (2018-ongoing), the mournful landscape bears witness through the absent presence of bodies of victims of extrajudicial encounters in Bangladesh. Placed next to it, Neha Grewal’s She Did Not Exist (2015) shows the figure of Kausar Bi (the wife of Sohrabuddin Sheikh), who was also killed in an encounter, falling into oblivion as her existence slowly fades out across the canvas. Dhrubajit Sarma’s Bamboo Blossoms (2019) comments on the CAA and NRC and the resultant erasure of citizenry as the artist etches half-moon-like petals on the faces of those who have been left out of the NRC. In other works, absence and erasure allow for us to focus on the details. In Sanket Jadia’s Regarding the Pain of Others (2015), victims of violence and mob lynching are presented without the perpetrators and the surroundings, forcing viewers to acknowledge their vulnerable contexts. Nilanjan Das’ In search for a comfort zone (2020-2022) foregrounds architectural and urban planning interventions that seek to moral police the general public as it highlights everyday forms of surveillance.
The artists in the show thus play with different modes of perception, speaking to contemporary political and personal realities as they reference absence of different kinds. Vats' experience as a writer informs the show as many of the works deal with textual forms of images as well. Notable among these is Arshi Irshad Ahmadzai's set of letters including Ba - Nuqta Dil in which the heart bleeds ink and Youdhisthir Maharjan’s Without a Map (2020), The Waiting Land (2020) and The Long Walk to Freedom (2015) that build around the letter ‘o’ and punctuation respectively, to create landscapes.
Weaving together diverse approaches to dealing with reality-whether through acts of erasure, obfuscation, repetition or mediation-as ways to circumvent forms of authority and rigid historiographies; Simulacrum poses provocative questions as we are forced to ask ourselves about what we choose to see (and what we choose to ignore or forget) as we continue to live in the present moment.
World Within World Without
Art Incept Gallery at Bikaner House
31st July to 6th August 2022
As we slowly come out of the pandemic and move back into some semblance of the normal, the Art Incept exhibition co-curated by Prima Kurien and Rahul Kumar showed the work of 17 young contemporary artists under the ambit of the theme World Within, World Without. Barbed wire entwined with a cardiogram greets visitors as they climb up the stairs to the first floor of the gallery in Bikaner House, referencing the aim to bring together experiences of interiority and exteriority. The curatorial note asks: “Does one transition from the ‘out’ to the ‘in’, and vice versa seamlessly? Are they even different journeys?”
While such questions enable the show to encompass a diverse range of mediums and interests, it ultimately falls short in attempting to mirror this transition seamlessly. With the art of so many practitioners in tandem, some of the works in the show speak to the thematic and to one another, while some get lost in the background. Had the scope of the exhibition been less expansive and ambitious, the individual artists would have been able to shine better rather than become overwhelmed by the volume of works.
In negotiating the world contained by the pandemic, Moumita Basak and Rinku Choudhary capture tinynarrativesof solitude and solidarity experienced by women in their embroidery and mixed media works respectively. Agrarian solidarities are layered and emphasized in Kumar Misal’s woodcuts on handmade paper, and these also speak to Chandan Bez Baruah and Brojeswar Mondal’s ecological concerns in the form of dense and abstract renderings of the world around them. Shubham Kumar resists the world within and without in his series of images of windows that neither reveal the outside recognizably, nor shed any light on the context of the inside. Ciby Samuel’s theologically inspired figures in watercolours stand alongside and in contrast to Abin Sreedharan KP’s watercolours of scientific instruments and measuring tools. Abhishek Dodiya’s metal sculptures reference the vertical density of settlements in urban areas and stands in contrast to the horizontal landscape of Viswanath Kutum’s languid celebration in a rural setting.
Given that the gallery was formed shortly before the pandemic, one recognizes its role in supporting young artists and giving them a chance to display their current practice. Yet there is not (and cannot be) much coherence within the narrative of the show itself, given the wide range of experiences it hopes to cover.