“Spectres”: India’s Sudhir Patwardhan and the idea of home and self – artist profile

In an exhibition that displays over 80 of his works, the artist takes us through his concept and experience of personal and public space, which have often intersected with each other in his own universe.

In his latest show, Sudhir Patwardhan explores the idea of home and the self. After showing at Jehangir Art Gallery in Mumbai in October 2017, the exhibition is on display at the Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi until 24 November 2017.

Sudhir Patwardhan, 'Another Day in the Old City', 2017, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 108 in. Image courtesy the artist and Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi.

Sudhir Patwardhan, ‘Another Day in the Old City’, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 48 x 108 inches. Image courtesy the artist and Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi.

A keen observer of life

Sudhir Patwardhan (b.1949) belongs to the post-Independence born generation of contemporary Indian artists who entered the art world in the 1970s, amidst a rapidly changing urban environment – one that was facing the socio-political challenges of a fledgling nation that was coming to terms with its colonial past. Patwardhan’s paintings have mostly depicted the everyday life of the working class of India, against the backdrop of the country’s teeming metropolis – demonstrating the artist’s keen observation of people, places and society.

Sudhir Patwardhan, 'Self-portrait with Mirror and Camera', 2016, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30 in. Image courtesy the artist and Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi.

Sudhir Patwardhan, ‘Self-portrait with Mirror and Camera’, 2016, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 30 inches. Image courtesy the artist and Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi.

His work has been exhibited widely in India and internationally with solo shows at the Jehangir Art Gallery (Mumbai), Gallery Chemould (Mumbai), India Habitat Centre (New Delhi) and Sakshi Galleries (Bengaluru and Mumbai). He has participated in international shows like “Aspects of Modem Indian Art”, Oxford (1982); Contemporary Indian Art at the Festival of India, London (1982); “Seven Indian Artists”, Hamburg, West Germany (1982); Contemporary Indian Art, Festival of India, New York (1985); Festival of India, Georges Pompidou Center, Paris (1986); “Coupe de Coeur”, Geneva, Switzerland (1987); “The Richness of Spirit”, Egyptian Academy, Kuwait and Rome (1988-89) and Century City, Tate Modern, London (2001). His paintings are in many public and private collections including the National Gallery of Modern Art (New Delhi), the Lalit Kala Akademi (New Delhi), Punjab University Museum (Chandigarh), Bharat Bhavan(Bhopal), Gallery of Contemporary Art (Kochi), the Peabody Essex Museum (Salem, USA), the Herwitz Family Collection (USA) and the Jehangir Nicholson Museum, NCPA (Mumbai).

 Sudhir Patwardhan, “Spectres”, 27 October – 24 November 2017, Vadehra Art Gallery. Image courtesy Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi.

Sudhir Patwardhan, “Spectres”, 27 October – 24 November 2017, Vadehra Art Gallery. Image courtesy Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi.

Pune-born Patwardhan is self-taught and graduated from the Armed Forces Medical College in the city, in 1972. His keen eye for detail and his knowledge of the human anatomy is testament to his years as a practicing radiologist and is evident in his realistic rendering of human figures as they pose in the almost stage-like tableaus of many of his cityscapes. Patwardhan’s art practice was launched into the public domain with his first solo exhibition in 1979. This was a time when the subject matter of his paintings were the labour class – common people that he would encounter everyday, first in the city of Mumbai and then in Thane, a neighbouring city, one of India’s most populous, where he finally settled down.

Sudhir Patwardhan, 'The High Bed', 2016, pastel on paper, 30 x 22 in. Image courtesy the artist and Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi.

Sudhir Patwardhan, ‘The High Bed’, 2016, pastel on paper, 30 x 22 inches. Image courtesy the artist and Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi.

Many of his figurative works during this period were tight close-ups with highly defined musculature, while continuing to speak for the subaltern, working class individual as an important player in a transitional society and a rapidly developing cityscape. His support of Leftist ideologies during this period also influenced his visualisation of the socio-political climate that was prevalent in the country. As he moved into the 1980s, Patwardhan started giving increasing importance to the urban spaces being occupied by the common man and he started including railways stations, construction sites, tenements, over-bridges, factories and defunct textile mills in his work. The city of Mumbai becomes a significant subject of his work and in his paintings he visually documents both his relationship with the city, as well as his urban experiences, in a manner that is relatable to every citizen of the city.

Sudhir Patwardhan, “Spectres”, 27 October – 24 November 2017, Vadehra Art Gallery. Image courtesy Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi.

Sudhir Patwardhan, “Spectres”, 27 October – 24 November 2017, Vadehra Art Gallery. Image courtesy Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi.

It is this common thread of closely examining the concept of public space with his characteristic, gritty realism that continues to appear in his latest exhibition “Spectres” at Vadehra Art Gallery. He also incorporates into some of the works, a unique idea of ‘home’, a traditionally private space, which for Patwardhan has a historical context and holds personal significance. Soon after retiring from his medical practice, the artist and his wife moved into a new apartment in an idyllic environment that was spacious enough to also be used as a studio space. This invasion of his private, everyday life into the physical space of his creative self, suddenly alienated Patwardhan from his work process. The artist was left feeling anchorless and adrift with the blurring of the boundaries that he had set up between his work, creative and private lives.  

Sudhir Patwardhan, 'Erase', 2017, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 80 in. Image courtesy the artist and Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi.

Sudhir Patwardhan, ‘Erase’, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 80 inches. Image courtesy the artist and Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi.

A visual story-teller of people and places

Patwardhan draws on these unsettling, confusing feelings to create a series of works that include self-portraits that return the viewer’s gaze as we navigate through the various rooms of his home. In the panoramic Erase (2017) he uses the picture plane to double up as a virtual canvas as he raises his hand which is holding a paint-stained rag at eye-level, to erase what he paints. The detached and almost disenchanted expression on his face and the presence of his wife sitting on a bed in the background, with her back turned toward us, are a clear indication of the artist’s feeling of alienation in his current environment.

Sudhir Patwardhan, 'Compass', 2017, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 80 in. Image courtesy the artist and Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi.

Sudhir Patwardhan, ‘Compass’, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 80 inches. Image courtesy the artist and Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi.

In Compass (2017) the roles are reversed and we see his wife busy reading in the background. The artist looks seemingly indifferent towards an incomplete artwork leaning against the wall of his living room, while gazing out at a changing urban skyline with concrete buildings taking precedence over greenery and nature. His attention to detail in the rendering of his apartment heightens the realism that he is trying to portray – both in the architectural detail and interior design of his home, as well as in the true expression of his inner feelings of displacement. The spectator connects with this honesty and self-reflection and is drawn into this visual depiction of the story of his present.

Sudhir Patwardhan, 'Empty Bookshelf', 2017, acrylic and coloured charcoal on paper, 48 x 33 in. Image courtesy the artist and Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi.

Sudhir Patwardhan, ‘Empty Bookshelf’, 2017, acrylic and coloured charcoal on paper, 48 x 33 inches. Image courtesy the artist and Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi.

Also on display are dozens of portraits of seemingly ordinary men and women – in different angles and in different styles – some being simple line drawings, some realistic renderings while others have dark, almost comic book-type undertones. These appear to be a visual commentary on human life and are indicative of Patwardhan’s keen insight, his extraordinary skill at capturing emotion and expressions, and his genuine interest in people and their circumstances. An interesting pair of paintings are Empty Bookshelf (2017) and Scatter (2017). In the former the artist depicts what looks like an older version of himself, sitting resignedly in a chair with an empty bookshelf behind him, as though his quest for learning and knowledge is now a thing of the past, perhaps metaphorically signifying an empty life. In the other we see him on the floor with arms and legs outstretched trying to reach out and desperately gather books that have fallen from a bookshelf – a desperate attempt at clutching onto some remnants of a past that was anchored in wisdom, understanding and connection.

Sudhir Patwardhan, 'Scatter', 2017, acrylic and coloured charcoal on paper, 48 x 36 in. Image courtesy the artist and Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi.

Sudhir Patwardhan, ‘Scatter’, 2017, acrylic and coloured charcoal on paper, 48 x 36 inches. Image courtesy the artist and Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi.

His mastery as a visual story-teller of the narratives hidden in public spaces is evident in Another Day in the Old City (2017) where Patwardhan goes back to his hometown of Pune to display the altered architecture of a changing city. The modernisation of a traditional Indian city is evident in the meticulous details that he incorporates in this work – into depicting the private lives of people living in the city’s old lanes as they peer out of their homes to gaze along with the viewer, into the distance, at the dark, brooding, grey, concrete skyline of urban development.        

Sudhir Patwardhan, 'Rock', 2017, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 24 in. Image courtesy the artist and Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi.

Sudhir Patwardhan, ‘Rock’, 2017, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 24 inches. Image courtesy the artist and Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi.

The paintings in “Spectres” are highly personal and have the gravitas of history, memory and experience – which is most obvious in the numerous self-portraits that Patwardhanhas included in the show. While some appear alone and lost, like Rock (2017), others like Self-Portrait (2017) appear deeply contemplative and self-questioning – laying himself bare to give the viewer a glimpse into his inner soul. In an interview with Mid-Day Patwardhan says:

A self-portrait has always been the ultimate statement that an artist can make. Thanks to the virtual world, we are used to the idea of multiple selves today. . . I suppose that the true self exists somewhere between these multiple layers. As an artist, I am trying to go beyond these representations and get to the truth.

And in “Spectres”, truth is what we see.

Amita Kini-Singh

1954

“Spectres” by Sudhir Patwardhan is on view from 27 October to 24 November 2017 at Vadehra Art Gallery, D 53 Defence Colony, New Delhi, 110024.

Related topics: Indian artists, painting, identity art, gallery shows, events in New Delhi

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Beyond: 3 emerging artists from the UAE to know

Art Radar introduces 3 emerging artists from the UAE: a sculptor, a performer and a video maker.

Art Radar offers an introduction to emerging UAE artists Shaikha Al-Mazrou, Alaa Edris and Jumairy, whose work debuted at Abu Dhabi Art Fair 2017.

Alaa Edris, 'Kharareef – Fables from the Trucial States', 2011, Video. Image courtesy the artist.

Alaa Edris, ‘Kharareef – Fables from the Trucial States’, 2011, video. Image courtesy the artist.

One of the highlights of the Abu Dhabi Art Fair this year was a section titled “Beyond: Emerging Artists”, which presented new commissioned works by three up-and-coming Emirati artists. Shaikha Al-Mazrou, Alaa Edris and Jumairy were selected by guest curators and established artists in their own right Mohammed Kazem and Cristiana de Marchi, who have been working hard over the last five years to support UAE artists across regional and international platforms.

Art Radar takes a look at the three emerging artists’ work.

Alaa Edris, 'Study for The Great Puzzle', 2017. Image courtesy the artist.

Alaa Edris, ‘Study for The Great Puzzle’, 2017. Image courtesy the artist.

1. Alaa Edris

The repetoire of Alaa Edris focues on video, sound and multimedia installation. Less a mediation on identity, Edris’ videos explore the material construction of gender and national identity in relation to language and visual culture specific to particular historical moments and places. In a 2011 video entitled Kharareef – Fables from the Trucial States, Edris composed an assembly of historical and visual associations using footage culled from several British documentaries that tell the story of the United Arab Emirates before their confederation. At the fair Edris presented the video The Great Puzzle (2017), in which she repeatedly performs a line from Alice in Wonderland after having taken vocal lessons to practice different ways of saying the sentence. In an interesting proposal by curator de Marchi, the work was displayed in the toilet stalls, where it was activated when the doors close.

Jumairy, performance at Abu Dhabi Art Fair 2017. Photo credit: Christopher Pike. Image from the national.

Jumairy, performance at Abu Dhabi Art Fair 2017. Photo credit: Christopher Pike. Image from the national.

2. Jumairy

Jumairy is the alter-ego “pop-star” character of an Emirati artist from Dubai. The artist told The National that the character, who makes music inspired by the work of Marilyn Manson, the Spice Girls and Arabic electro-pop, originates in his traumatic memories of the death of his childhood pet rabbit. The artist has been performing “Jumairy” for the past five years and has recently extended to a set of accompanying characters who were present at his Abu Dhabi Fair performance, where Jumairy was promoting his album Haemophobia. Passers by could also invest in a line of merchandise that includes caps, jam, potions, fidget spinners, caps, and the blood-red sweatshirts that the Jumairy performers wore. Jumairy, which collapses the boundaries between performance, pop group, avante garde action and brand, is the result of the artist’s interest in voice, memory, psychology and environment. With a careful engagement with sound, screens, performance and apps, this Emirati artist is the new media pioneer to watch.

Shaikha Al Mazrou, 'Ironic Experiments I', 2017. Image courtesy the artist and Lawrie Shabibi.Shaikha Al Mazrou, 'Ironic Experiments I', 2017. Image courtesy the artist and Lawrie Shabibi.

Shaikha Al Mazrou, ‘Ironic Experiments I’, 2017. Image courtesy the artist and Lawrie Shabibi.

3. Shaikha Al-Mazrou

If sculptor Shaikha Al Mazrou’s practice is more traditional than peers in its dialogue with conceptual art and Bauhaus architecture, her mix of strategies and materials is just as irreverent. In her large scale sculpture and installation works she blends a minimalist aesthetic with gestures towards the Gulf construction boom of the 2000s, combining electronic waste, scaffolding and plastic to create vibrant geometric assemblages. At Abu Dhabi Art Fair, Shaikha Al Mazrou is represented by Dubai gallery Lawrie Shabibi where she presented a new body of work entitled “Ironic Experiments”. Made of black stoneware, the sculptures are displayed beside a set of drawings that explore what has been a long standing central theme for the artist: imbalance, dissonance and awkwardness. In an investigation of what uncertainty and expectation might mean from the perspective of the materials she engages with, the “Ironic Experiments” series oscillate between contrasts – positive and negative space, geometric and organic, form and volume, surface and void.

Rebecca Close

1943

Related Topics: Emirati curators (UAE), Foundations, Political, news

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OPEN CALL | Hong Kong | Call for Proposals | Asia Art Archive (AAA)– 26 November 2017

AAA is calling proposals for The Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Greater China Research Grant, which offers one-year fellowships to up to three individuals to study AAA’s Collection and develop historical research projects contingent to contemporary art in the Greater China region including Mainland China, Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong. Eligible applicants are postgraduates and pre-doctoral fellows with a research focus on contemporary art or Greater China studies, and independent scholars and writers with trackable research and publication records. The top grantee will receive USD15,000, which should be able to cover residency, travelling and project development and production. The selected projects will begin in March 2018 and complete by March 2019. MORE HERE

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INTERNSHIP | Maine | Artist Internship | Franconia Sculpture Park – 10 February 2018

Franconia Sculpture Park is a nonprofit arts organisation running a large outdoor sculpture park, active artist residency and community arts programming. The Park is now seeking 15 student or early career Artist Interns to live and work at the Park, and assist in programming and artistic assistance. The interns will have the opportunity to create large-scale sculptural artwork and receive mentorship from professional artists-in-residence. The internship requires a daily five-hour work commitment over a period of two to three months. International applicants are welcome. MORE HERE

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OPEN CALL | Buenos Aires | Call for Entries | Faena Prize for the Arts – 15 February 2018

Faena Art invites multidisciplinary artists from across the world to propose site-sensitive works that respond to the space of Faena Art Center Buenos Aires based on time and duration. There is no limitation on artistic forms, which may include installation, performance, painting, sculpture, photography, design and architecture, film or video art, etc. The successful candidate will receive a USD75,000 prize, USD25,000 of which will be awarded directly to the artist. The winning project proposal will be produced for exhibition at the Art Center Buenos Aires in 2019 with the possibility to be showcased at the Faena Forum Miami Beach. MORE HERE

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OPEN CALL | Venice | Call for Applications | The School for Curatorial Studies – 15 March 2018

The School for Curatorial Studies is a project dedicated to contemporary curatorial theory and practice as well as contemporary museology. The School is now open for applications to enroll in the three-module intensive course taking place between 5 June 2018 and 4 September 2018. Taught in English, the Summer School will focus on the history of contemporary visual arts and practices of exhibition-making, and will include field study trips to the 2018 Venice Biennale and Berlin (optional). Students will participate in weekly activities including artist studio visits, tours of exhibition spaces, networking events and workshops held by arts professionals. Tuition fee is EUR420,000 (approx. USD494,050), excluding any visa application and accommodation costs. MORE HERE

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INTERNSHIP | Hong Kong | Editorial and Design Internships (unpaid) | ArtAsiaPacific (AAP) – 20 November 2017

ArtAsiaPacific (AAP) is accepting applications for Editorial and Design Internships taking place between January and March 2018. Lasting 3 – 4 months, the full-time internships are based in AAP‘s editorial office in Hong Kong. Depending on their focus, interns will learn basic editorial and design skills of magazine publishing and are eventually encouraged to produce at least one article or design a section of the magazine. Applicants will be currently enrolled in university (undergraduate or post-graduate) or recent graduates. Journalism, art history or design students/graduates are preferred. If interested please send a one-page letter of interest and a current CV to: jobs@aapmag.com  MORE HERE

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OPEN CALL | Dubai | Call for Proposals | Art Jameel – 21 November 2017

Building on Art Jameel’s longstanding interest in producing and exhibiting public works, Art Jameel Commissions programme runs in a 3-year cycle, focusing on sculpture (2018), research and lecture series (2019), and drawing and painting (2020), open to artists from or based in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, as well as those from around the world with an interest in and familiarity with these regions. The initiative’s 2018 Open Call is inviting artists to submit proposals for sculptural works that utilise light technologies, reflecting on the role of light in a dynamic urban setting such as Dubai. Artists are encouraged to use the exhibiting venue Jameel Arts Centre’s architectural features to conceive and deliver work. A budget of USD500 will be paid to each of the three artists who are invited to submit a more detailed proposal. The production budget for the winning commission will be USD70,000. MORE HERE

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“Silver Bird”: an exploration of ‘flying’ with Indian artist and cinematographer Shambhavi Kaul – in conversation

This compact exhibition approaches the site of ‘airplane space’ in a unique manner, with a series of plane narratives that attempt to cinematically define humankind’s relationship with flight.

Art Radar spoke to Kaul about the ideas behind both the exhibition on display at Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai until 25 November 2017 and the evolution of her experimental cinematography practice.

Shambhavi Kaul, Silver Bird (Nose), 2017, Dye sublimation print on aluminium. 35.5 x 53 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai

Shambhavi Kaul, ‘Silver Bird (Nose)’, 2017, dye sublimation print on aluminium, 35.5 x 53 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai.

Shambhavi Kaul was born in Jodhpur, India and lives in the United States where she teaches Practice of Filmmaking of Art, Art History and Visual Studies at Duke University. She has exhibited her work worldwide at international film festivals in New York, Ann Arbor, Toronto, London, Edinburgh, Berlin, Oberhausen and Rotterdam, as well as at major exhibitions such as the Shanghai Biennale and Experimenta India in Bengaluru. “Silver Bird” is Kaul’s second solo show at Jhaveri Contemporary and is made up of four parts – a single-channel film, a series of photographs, a 40-page booklet and a two-channel video installation.

The artist is an experimental cinematographer whose work – a unique interplay of opposites, reality and science-fiction, the familiar and the uncanny – engages the onlooker in a visual dialogue that transcends space and time.

Her films use analogue, digital, archival and print media within both documentary and fictional frameworks, usually with the marked absence of any human players. It is this atypical divergence from cinema’s traditional focus on personal narratives and the use of varied backdrops, nature, objects, birds and animals in her cinematic constructions that makes Kaul’s practice stand apart.

Shambhavi Kaul, Silver Bird (Outer Wall), 2017, Dye sublimation print on aluminium. 48 x 33 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai

Shambhavi Kaul, ‘Silver Bird (Outer Wall)’, 2017, dye sublimation print on aluminium, 48 x 33 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai.

While her early work was made for the movie theatre, she has evolved her oeuvre over the years to include moving-image installations such
 as Fallen Objects (2015) and Modes of Faltering (2016), in which she visually comments on cinema’s escapism in the former, and the confined spaces of a movie theatre as a site of terror in the latter.

In a step further from Modes of Faltering and on similar lines, in “Silver Bird” Kaul has thought about the ‘airplane space’, which has also been a scene of terror in recent decades. The four sections of this show – the film, photographs, booklet and video installation – all approach the interior and exterior of an airplane in a distinct manner providing the viewer with a montage of narratives that are familiar and comforting on the one hand and disconcerting and threatening, on the other. Jhaveri Contemporary writes:

In this cosmos, Kaul casts her subjects, human and otherwise, as meager pawns; ghostly material markers upon whom the abstract forces that govern this site are exerted.

Shambhavi Kaul, 'In-flight', 2017, 40-page booklet. Image courtesy the artist and Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai.

Shambhavi Kaul, ‘In-flight’, 2017, 40-page booklet. Image courtesy the artist and Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai.

At the beginning of the exhibition, visitors can rifle through In-flight (2017), a 40-page booklet designed by the artist that contains images and texts sourced from various in-flight magazines, offering the reader an escapism not unlike the promise made by film and cinema. The texts, all edited by the artist, are reflective of people’s strong urge to fly, to spread their wings, to discover the world even in the face of danger and hardships. These include statements like:

You are in a Silver Bird right now. You are rocketing into the future at 500 miles per hour.

You are exhausted. What you need is to explore.

Men and women labored alongside foreigners. They worked hard. And when they weren’t digging they gathered around for music or a touring circus. They swam and they laughed.

His adventures in flying were set in motion in a remote outpost. He regularly injured himself. He insisted on flying despite the lingering effects of his many injuries. The last time he flew, he took off and never returned.

Shambhavi Kaul, 'Hijacked', 2017, ingle channel film, 15 min, Super 16 mm, HD. Image courtesy the artist and Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai.

Shambhavi Kaul, ‘Hijacked’, 2017, ingle channel film, 15 min, Super 16 mm, HD. Image courtesy the artist and Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai.

The dual-channel video installation Safe Travels that greets visitors at the entrance is a hyperrealistic, quirky montage of views familiar to flyers – both from inside the airplane and of the outside as can be seen from the windows. Kaul seems to be questioning humankind’s illusive dream of airplanes being symbolic of travels to exotic lands – one that continues to propel us to travel, despite the dark shadow of terror that looms over this aerial world. The irony in the title Safe Travels is not lost on the onlooker and one is drawn to the seamless loop of ‘airplane imagery’ that includes hypnotically waving cabin curtains and a slow panning over of a tropical island destination as the plane touches down.

Shambhavi Kaul, Silver Bird (Outer Wall), 2017, Dye sublimation print on aluminium. 48 x 33 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai

Shambhavi Kaul, ‘Silver Bird (Outer Wall)’, 2017, dye sublimation print on aluminium, 48 x 33 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai.

Moving towards the heart of the exhibition, there is a series of photographs called Silver Bird, which are exterior views of a decommissioned aircraft. Kaul has closely cropped images of the aircraft’s nose, wing, tail, door, windows and underbelly and positioned these against a pitch-black background – presenting them as a visual obituary of a carrier that has served its purpose. In death, the Silver Bird is almost brought to life in these photographs, as the onlooker is forced to think of the aircraft’s mortality while perhaps sparing a thought for our own. In this narrative, the aircraft is projected as “part detritus and part futuristic space shuttle”, as stated by Jhaveri Contemporary.

Shambhavi Kaul, Hijacked, 2017, Single channel film. 15 mins. Super 16 mm. HD. Image courtesy the artist and Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai

Shambhavi Kaul, ‘Hijacked’, 2017, single channel film, 15 min, uper 16 mm. HD. Image courtesy the artist and Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai.

In the final room is a 15-minute, single channel film called Hijacked (2017), the first project by Kaul to employ human actors. It combines a documentary view of the same decommissioned plane in the “Silver Bird” photographs, juxtaposed with a staged version of passengers mechanically enacting typical activities that we associate with flying, such as sleeping and eating peanuts. Using subtle editing techniques, Kaul makes the viewer believe that the defunct carrier is in the air once again, carrying passengers, even though the actors play out their parts with a minimum of props against a dark nondescript background.    

Art Radar spoke to the artist about her practice and the ideation behind the conceptualisation of her solo show “Silver Bird”.

Shambhavi Kaul, 'Hijacked', 2017, ingle channel film, 15 min, Super 16 mm, HD. Image courtesy the artist and Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai.

Shambhavi Kaul, ‘Hijacked’, 2017, ingle channel film, 15 min, Super 16 mm, HD. Image courtesy the artist and Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai.

The sequencing of the elements (brochure, video, stills, film) in the exhibition, seems to tell a story. What was your intention behind this display choice?

Perhaps the most consistent engagement in my work has been with regards to the topic of sites or “place” and the way cinematic narratives work to order our experience of these sites. For years, I approached this exclusively through a film practice. Over the last few years, I expanded my work to include moving image installations and through this experience I discovered the unique potential of working in flexible spaces. Because, of course, film theatres are also particular installations but they are not as flexible to design as say a gallery space is.

“Silver Bird” takes this a step further because, as you point out, my approach now includes multimedia. While the four elements in the show are all complete in their own right, they also work together, through juxtaposition, to tell a story. For me, the exciting aspect of working in diverse media is that each offers very different narrative potential. In this environment, my engagement with filmic storytelling is somewhat exploded and not at all self-enclosed. Here each element either tries to address my question or confronts the other.

Shambhavi Kaul, 'In-flight', 2017, 40-page booklet. Image courtesy the artist and Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai.

Shambhavi Kaul, ‘In-flight’, 2017, 40-page booklet. Image courtesy the artist and Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai.

The idea of the aircraft as “part detritus and part futuristic space shuttle” is portrayed in the stills. Can you explain to us why you wanted to show this dichotomy?

A junked airplane can seem very mundane, literally a mass of decaying material. But if one thinks about them in terms of human desire, they are not mundane at all. The photographs speak to this tension between the desire to fly, and maybe even leave the planet for some other (outer) space, in relation to the object we have created to meet these desires. 

Shambhavi Kaul, 'Silver Bird (Tail)', 2017, dye sublimation print on aluminium, 81 x 122 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai.

Shambhavi Kaul, ‘Silver Bird (Tail)’, 2017, dye sublimation print on aluminium, 81 x 122 cm. Image courtesy the artist and Jhaveri Contemporary, Mumbai.

You have said in the past that you like to project what is both familiar and unfamiliar to the viewer, in your work. How would you say that this intent reflects in “Silver Bird”?

“Silver Bird” is about airplanes and airplane space, and I am drawn to this topic precisely because it already expresses this tension between the familiar and the unfamiliar that is indeed a recurring theme in my work. On the one hand, airplanes are ubiquitous to our globalised world, on the other, it is only a small cross-section of the world’s population that can actually afford to fly on them.

To those who do fly on them, on the one hand, it has become such a common form of transportation, there is hardly anything novel about it. On the other hand, the idea that this huge metal object can take off… it is strange, and strangely unbelievable each time. There is also the unfamiliarity one feels when one realises that while flying, one has literally taken off and left the planet.

Amita Kini-Singh

1933

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“Still Life”: Filipino artist Patricia Perez Eustaquio at Silverlens Gallery, Manila

To celebrate a decade of representation with Silverlens, the gallery presents Patricia Perez Eustaquio’s “Still Life”.

An awarding-winning artist, Patricia Perez Eustaquio looks at human appetite, excess and the vanity of objects. 

Patricia Perez Eustaquio: Still Life, 26 October – 25 November 2017, installation view at Silverlens, Manila. Image courtesy Silverlens.

“Patricia Perez Eustaquio: Still Life”, 26 October – 25 November 2017, installation view at Silverlens, Manila. Image courtesy Silverlens.

Working across a variety of media, Patricia Perez Eustaquio‘s work explores the integrity and vanity of objects. In “Still Life”, Eustaquio applies traditional techniques that are reminiscent of art-historical terminology and iconography. In doing so, she alludes “to contemporary martyrs of human excess and appetite”, key themes in her practice which dominate her current show in the Manila-based Silverlens Gallery.

The exhibition draws parallels with her previous show from 2004, “Swine”, which considered ideas surrounding appetite, and the artist’s concerns as a prior vegetarian.

"Patricia Perez Eustaquio: Still Life", 26 October – 25 November 2017, installation view at Silverlens, Manila. Image courtesy Silverlens.

“Patricia Perez Eustaquio: Still Life”, 26 October – 25 November 2017, installation view at Silverlens, Manila. Image courtesy Silverlens.

Eustaquio’s work is occupied with “shadows, fragments, discards and detritus,” as she explains in her artist statement. Working across various media, including painting, drawing and installation, fabric has recently become a key part of her work, creating sculptures through shrouding objects with silk or crochet, before removing the object to leave what she calls a “ghost”, a minus object, or empty carcasses that are evocative of questions surrounding memory and perception.

"Patricia Perez Eustaquio: Still Life", 26 October – 25 November 2017, installation view at Silverlens, Manila. Image courtesy Silverlens.

“Patricia Perez Eustaquio: Still Life”, 26 October – 25 November 2017, installation view at Silverlens, Manila. Image courtesy Silverlens.

In “Still Life”, visitors can view her full oeuvre across disciplines and media; from her ornately shaped canvases to sculptures shrouded by fabric. Wrought objects, from furniture, textile, brass and glasswork, take over the gallery space, providing

commentary on the mutability of our perception, as well as on the constructs of desirability and how it influences life and culture in general.

26 October – 25 November 2017. Image courtesy Silverlens Gallery.

“Patricia Perez Eustaquio: Still Life”, 26 October – 25 November 2017, installation view at Silverlens, Manila. Image courtesy Silverlens.

 Speaking to Art Radar about how this exhibition builds on her past practice, Eustaquio explains:

“Still Life” builds on my practice and artistic concerns of materialism and consumerism. I have always explored the notion or the idea of still life as a movement characterized not only by the uplifting of the banal or the everyday, but also the vanity in which the objects are rendered, to appeal to the tastes and demands of its time.

"Patricia Perez Eustaquio: Still Life", 26 October – 25 November 2017, installation view at Silverlens, Manila. Image courtesy Silverlens.

“Patricia Perez Eustaquio: Still Life”, 26 October – 25 November 2017, installation view at Silverlens, Manila. Image courtesy Silverlens.

By vanity, Eustaquio is referring to the ephemeral nature of objects, their place within a commercialised society, and their ultimate emptiness and artifice: literally personified and symbolised here, by the empty casing of fabric on display in the gallery.

plaster, wood, polyurethane, acrylic paint, sugar paste, graphite 22.05(h) x 38.19(dia) in • 56 (h) x 97(dia) cm. Image courtesy Silverlens Gallery.

Patricia Perez Eustaquio, ‘Untitled (Still Life 5)’, 2017, plaster, wood, polyurethane, acrylic paint, sugar paste, graphite, 56 x 97 cm. Image courtesy Silverlens.

The sense of reverence the society has for objects and the need to own them is considered in depth in the exhibition, through her exploration of human appetites, something she represents through her visceral canvases of slaughtered pig and cow carcasses. For the artist, these images link to more wider issues surrounding imperialism and global expansion:

Of course, I feel that the animal carcasses serve as metaphors for other martyrs of human appetite, and our current global situation, and my own Philippine experience of political and social instability were not far from my mind. However, the more “benign” vegetables were also in a way objects affected by such appetites. The fruits and vegetables I piled onto the cornucopia are those that the Spanish empire “introduced” to the rest of the world because they had colonized South America and the Philippines.
The narrative there, of seeking prized objects and of the effects of such endeavors, touches on historical and current social and political spheres that are worth investigating. Our desire to seek, to own (objects), only to cast them aside when tastes have changed and seek a new one, is a repeating narrative in our domestic, social lives.
'Untitled', (Still Life 4),fiberglass resin, sugar paste, graphite, acrylic paint, brass strip, 2017, 17h x 15w. Image courtesy Silverlens Gallery.

Patricia Perez Eustaquio, ‘Untitled (Still Life 4)’, 2017, fibreglass resin, sugar paste, graphite, acrylic paint, brass strip, 17 x 15 cm. Image courtesy Silverlens.

PATRICIA PEREZ EUSTAQUIO Untitled (Still Life 1), 2017 oil on canvas 48h x 84w in 121.92h x 213.36w cm. Image courtesy Silverlens Gallery.

Patricia Perez Eustaquio, ‘Untitled (Still Life 1)’, 2017, oil on canvas, 122 x 213 cm. Image courtesy Silverlens.

The carcass canvases ineluctably weave themes of death and the macabre into the exhibition. The concept of memento mori is one we see much of in Eustaquio’s current body of work. She tells Art Radar her current exhibition documents her interest in this concept:

The continuous arc between life and death, the beauty and gore related to this arc, and how our sensibilities or perceptions are challenged by the vanity in which they are represented. “Still Life” is about objects, and objects of desire, and yet the macabre is ever present. And it seems that no matter how commonplace such macabre images become, they still have the power to repel or repulse, no matter how ornately done or masked. I find this interesting.

PATRICIA PEREZ EUSTAQUIO Untitled (Still Life 2), 2017 oil on canvas 48h x 84w in 121.92h x 213.36w cm SPI_PE009

Patricia Perez Eustaquio, ‘Untitled (Still Life 2)’, 2017, oil on canvas, 122 x 213 cm. Image courtesy Silverlens.

Eustaquio is the first artist represented by Silverlens, and the recipient of the Thirteen Artists Awards by the Cultural Center of the Philippines in 2009. She has gained recognition through residencies abroad, including Art Omi in New York and Stichting Id11 of the Netherlands. She has exhibited at the Parisian Palais de Tokyo and was part of the 2016 Singapore Biennale.
Exhibiting with the gallery since 2008, Eustaquio counts herself as their ‘oldest’ artist. Founded by Isa Lorenzo and Rachel Rillo in 2004, Silverlens aims to “place its artists within the broader framework of the contemporary art dialogue”, transcending the borders of Asian art communities.

Anna Jamieson

1951

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A Beautiful World: 5 Chinese artists and their “peak experience” at Klein Sun Gallery, New York

Featuring five Chinese artists, “Closer To The Beautiful World” takes reference from Abraham Maslow’s theories.

Art Radar looks at the exhibition running until 25 November 2017 in New York City.

Zhang Zhaoying 'Blowing Cheerily',2015,Oil on canvas, 120 x 140cm. © Zhang Zhaoying, image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery

Zhang Zhaoying ‘Blowing Cheerily’, 2015, oil on canvas, 120 x 140 cm. © Zhang Zhaoying. Image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery.

Featuring the artists Chen Xi, Hu Yinping, Wang Jiajia, Yang Xinjia and Zhang Zhaoying, the latest exhibition at Klein Sun Gallery in New York, “Closer to the Beautiful World”, pulls together painting, installation and photography works. Curated by Hong Kong-born independent curator Janet Fong, the exhibition contemplates the idea of a human’s “peak experience” in his or her life.

As suggested by American psychologist Abraham Maslow, “peak experience” is a psychological phenomenon that a person may have during his or her lifetime. Often typified as a series of euphoric mental states, “peak experience” was seen as a pathway to self-actualisation, where the person experiences an enhanced capability to fulfill one’s potentialities.

Described as a state during which the senses of a person become keener and more receptive, the “peak experience” allows access to feelings of heightened perception, leading one to experience feelings of enlightenment and ultimate understanding of the essence of the world as well as the nature of life. Maslow considered the achievement of these “peak experiences” to have been an important part of any human’s life, writing that it allowed people to gain insight into a “beautiful world”. As he writes,

The reason why we attempt to approach the ‘beautiful world’ is because we live in a world that lacks choices and in reality is filled with perversity, ignorance, hypocrisy, and ugliness.

The exhibition looks at the creative output of these “peak experiences”, resulting in an exhibition where multiple threads, themes and ideas run through. The works are the product of these five artists’ experiences of euphoria, creativity and seeming enlightenment, providing a window into their individual artistic processes and approaches. The exhibition strikes several notes; sometimes disorienting, alien and bizarre, the works on show display a multi-faceted understanding of what it means to experience the “peak experience” in different times and locations.

Yang Xinjia 'A Fatty's Sorrow' (detail), 2015 Photograph,80 x 52cm each Edition of 6 © Yang Xinjia, image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery

Yang Xinjia ‘A Fatty’s Sorrow’ (detail), 2015, photograph, 80 x 52 cm each, Edition of 6. © Yang Xinjia. Image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery.

One of the most discombobulating works is Yang Xinjia’s A Fatty’s Sorrow (2015), which depicts a group of officials in uniform, gathered around the carcass of a giant, bloated fish. Laughing in an almost celebratory, light-hearted fashion, the starkness of the fish’s death does not appear to figure in the minds of the officials gathered around the table. Tinged with a certain darkness, the image was created by Yang Xinjia altering original images in a bricolage-like fashion.

Resulting in this bizarre setting, Yang Xinjia’s image reflects a certain dark humour about the world. Sublimating typical, commonplace political images often published in newspapers and other media, Yang Xinjia’s image can almost be read as a pointed commentary on such staged situations, ironically revealing a certain truth through her own method of constructing an imaginary narrative.

Wang Jia jia,'Can We Live in Reality', 2017,Digital print, oil, acrylic, spray paint, resin on canvas 100 x 150cm © Wang Jia jia, image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery

Wang Jiajia, ‘Can We Live in Reality’, 2017, digital print, oil, acrylic, spray paint, resin on canvas, 100 x 150 cm. © Wang Jiajia. Image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery.

The paintings works of Wang Jiajia, Chen Xi and Zhang Zhaoying provide an interesting counterpoint to Yang Xinjia’s photography work. Exuberant and dynamic, the paintings reveal the psychological states of the artists themselves during their experience of self-actualisation. Wang Jiajia’s Can we Live in Reality (2017), made by layering oil and acrylic over a digital print on canvas, is an expansive swath of colours that wind their way across the canvas. Peppered with slogans and taglines that run a gamut of negative emotions, such as “Die Yuppie Scum!”, “No please” and “I miss you!”, Wang Jiajia’s painting is a furious whirl of raw sentiments and feelings.

Chen Xi 'Single Layer Acrylic No.11' ,2015 Acrylic on canvas 120 x 100cm) © Chen Xi, image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery

Chen Xi, ‘Single Layer Acrylic No.11’, 2015, acrylic on canvas, 120 x 100 cm. © Chen Xi. Image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery.

Perhaps somewhat cheerier is Zhang Zhaoying’s Blowing Cheerily (2015), which features splashes of confetti-like oil flakes dancing across the canvas. A strange portrait piece, Zhang’s subjects are incredibly muscled women, with absurd flower-like structures for heads that are vaguely reminiscent of cheap, plastic portable fans. Posed as though in the midst of a body-builder’s contest, the four bodies line up with their stomachs pulled in and chests puffed out, as celebratory confetti stream across the canvas. By itself, Blowing Cheerily is a weird and wonderful painting that stands out.

Chen Xi’s Single Layer Acrylic No. 11 (2015) strikes a more monochromatic tone, comprising an intricate swirl of interlocking grey and white lines with dashes of blue. A hypnotic painting, Chen Xi’s work deals with dimensionality, flattening fractured surfaces onto the two-dimensional face of the canvas.

Hu Yinping ,' Identity', 2012-present Original identification cards 54 x 85.6mm each© Hu Yinping, image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery

Hu Yinping ,’ Identity’, 2012-present, original identification cards, 54 x 85.6 mm each. © Hu Yinping. Image courtesy Klein Sun Gallery.

Hu Yinping presents an unusual installation piece, Identity (2012-present), which showcases her original identification cards. Inspired by her friend’s remark that she looked like a slightly overweight stranger, Hu’s work maps a trajectory over how she has been defined in her pictures and the content on her identity cards.

With so many different results, the exhibition paints an interesting story about the mental condition of “peak experience”, presenting a multi-faceted view of what it means to have that kind of experience. Alongside the gallery’s exhibition programme is also its ongoing contribution to this year’s edition of Asia Contemporary Art Week in New York. Part of Thinking Projects, a pop-up exhibition series, Klein Sun Gallery is also presenting the work of Yang Xin. A site-specific installation, You’re looking at me. Who’s Looking at You? (2017) deals with ecological issues, particularly that of plastic mulch found in China. Addressing human-environment relationships, the installation delves into the damage done to the ecological balance in China, and was co-organised with the Fu Xiaodong Space Station Beijing. Both exhibition programmes run until the 25 November 2017; a veritable panorama of Chinese art, the programme provides an interesting peek into the art of China today.

Junni Chen

 1913

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6 highlights from Performa 17 in New York

Dedicated to live performances, Performa Biennial takes place until 19 November 2017 throughout New York City.

Exploring the role of performance art in 20th century art history, Art Radar looks at key highlights from this year’s edition of Performa Biennial.

Eiko Otake, Eiko in 30th Street Station, September 2014. Photo by William Johnston.

Eiko Otake, Eiko in 30th Street Station, September 2014. Photo by William Johnston. Image courtesy Performa 17.

With 21 commissions by artists from over 11 different countries, Performa 17 presents a month-long series of projects, performances and events selected by a curatorial team. Led by founder and chief curator RoseLee Goldberg, this year’s edition of Performa promotes a self-reflective dialogue, with a curatorial narrative that places the focus on urban centres and the role of the arts within communities. Boasting a multi-cultural, diverse line up of artists, this year’s edition features relatively strong representation from the countries of South Africa, Estonia and the United States.

Art Radar takes a look at 5 highlights of Performa 17 happening during the final week of the Biennial.

Eiko Otake, Eiko in 30th Street Station, September 2014. Photo by William Johnston

Eiko Otake, Eiko in 30th Street Station, September 2014. Photo by William Johnston. Image courtesy Performa 17.

1. Eiko Otake, A Body in Places — 14 November at The Met Cloisters

With post-nuclear Fukishima as her reference point, Japanese-born award-winning choreographer and dancer Eiko Otake is presenting A Body in Places across three consecutive Sundays at all three locations of The Metropolitan Museum across New York: The Cloisters, The Breuer and The Met Fifth Avenue. Otake’s performance art has continued to break ground over her fifty-year career; some of her best-known performance works include Night Tide (1984), presented with her long-term partner Koma, which contemplated notions of physical geographies and connectedness through their bodily movements.

This project is presented as part of an ongoing solo project that Otake has embarked on since 2014. Exploring bodies in spaces and places, previous iterations of her project have included the 12-hour durational performance of the same name in Philadelphia’s 30th Street station. Utilising a durational movement and video installation, Otake’s work challenges traditional conceptions of time, movement and vulnerabilities.

Wangechi Mutu, 'Banana Leaves on Fallen Tree Trunk', 2017. Image courtesy the artist and Performa 17.

Wangechi Mutu, ‘Banana Leaves on Fallen Tree Trunk’, 2017. Image courtesy the artist and Performa 17.

2. Wangechi Mutu, Banana Stroke — 14 November at The Metropolitan Museum, Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium

New York and Nairobi-based artist Wangechi Mutu‘s new work is an “outgrowth” of a live, multimedia performance drawing on both macro- and micro-politics, and considers aspects of international legislature and its consequences to the public depictions and details of the lives of women in her native Kenya.

She uses paper that has been dyed, fermented or saturated to create abstract paintings in an immersive environment which becomes both artwork and its stage. Mutu explores the objectification of the black female body within popular culture, and uses various sources for her portraits, collages, performances and animations, such as medical textbooks on tropical disease. The site-specific action painting performance merges images of the Kenyan landscape with those of her own artistic process, thus juxtaposing the warm intimacy of home with the colder, public arena of the museum designed for encounters and spectacle.

Anu Vahtra, 'Illusion, distorted perspective, lack of balance, another dimension II', 2014. Site-specific installation at Tartmus, Tartu, Estonia. Photo Anu Vahtra. Image courtesy Performa 17.

Anu Vahtra, ‘Illusion, distorted perspective, lack of balance, another dimension II’, 2014, site-specific installation at Tartmus, Tartu, Estonia. Photo Anu Vahtra. Image courtesy Performa 17.

3. Anu Vahtra’s Open House Closing. A Walk — 15 to 17 November 15 at the Performa 17 Biennial Hub 

Anu Vahtra’s project takes visitors around emptied out stores and spaces around Soho. Taking reference from the American artist Gordon Matta-Clark, Vahtra’s project Open House Closing. A Walk is meant as a means of examining the subject of “post-gentrification”. The project centers around various site-specific installations, in keeping with her own artistic practice, which often takes a site-specific, space-oriented approach to art and art-making.

Vahtra’s project was supported by the Performa Commissioning Fund, as well as the Estonian Ministry of Culture and Estonian Contemporary Art Development Centre. This year’s edition of Performa 17 also includes the project Estonian Pavilion Without Walls, which features some of the pioneering artists of the Estonian contemporary art landscape, including artists Flo Kasearu, and Kris Lemsalu alongside Anu Vahtra.

Yto Barrada, Material for Tree Identification for Beginners, 2017. Image courtesy Yto Barrada and Performa 17.

Yto Barrada, ‘Material for Tree Identification for Beginners’, 2017. Image courtesy Yto Barrada and Performa 17.

4. Yto Barrada’s Tree Identification for Beginners — 17 to 19 November at the Connelly Theater

Screenings of Moroccan-French artist Yto Barrada‘s film Tree Identification for Beginners will be screened at the Connelly Theatre. The award-winning artist, who was nominated for the Prix Marcel Duchamp in 2016 and the recipient of the Abraaj Group Art Prize in 2015, is known for her photography, film, sculpture, prints and installation works which explore specific situations and societal landscapes of her hometown, Tangier.

In this particular film, Barrada delves into her personal family history, exploring narrative interviews with her family members whilst sifting through archives of reports, journals and textiles. Focusing on the year 1966, where the artist’s mother was one of fifty “Young African Leaders” invited to participate in a State Department-sponsored propaganda tour of the United States, Barrada’s film explores the larger themes of ethnography, education and history. Aiming to revisit the revolutionary potential of the Pan-African, Tricontinental, Black Power and anti-Vietnam war movements, Barrada’s film explores socio-political issues from personal and historical perspectives.

Kelly Nipper, 'Untitled', 2017, framed chromogenic print. 42 x 62 inches. Image courtesy the artist and Performa.

Kelly Nipper, ‘Untitled’, 2017, framed chromogenic print, 42 x 62 in. Image courtesy the artist and Performa.

5. Kelly Nipper’s Experimental Physiology 

Part of a three-year collaboration between The Brown Arts Initiative (BAI) at Brown University and Performa, American artist Kelly Nipper’s commissioned performance is presented at this year’s Performa 17. Nipper’s Experimental Physiology is the result of extensive collaboration; the project involved a team of Brown students, the Self-Assembly Lab at MIT, dancer Marissa Ruazol and a Laban Movement Analyst, the larger project draws on photography, architecture, performance and scientific inquiry.

Nipper will present Terra Mecanique at Performa 17, a live performance with an installation for five performance in a rapid liquid printing laboratory. Exploring Laban movement systems, as well as photographic mechanisms and 3D printing, the work explores the intersections between machines, dance and human bodily movement.

Nicholas Hlobo 'UmBhovuzo: The Parable of the Sower' 2016 Performance © Nicholas Hlobo. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg Photo: Mario Todeschini

Nicholas Hlobo ‘UmBhovuzo: The Parable of the Sower’ 2016 Performance © Nicholas Hlobo. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg Photo: Mario Todeschini

6. Nicholas Hlobo’s Umbhovuzo: The Parable of the Sower. November 18 – November 19, at Harlem Parish

An expansion on the original four-part performative installation of the same name, Hlobo’s performance work at Performa 17 examines the histories of domestic interiors whilst also providing a commentary on gender roles that have shaped societal roles, the division of labor, and the ways we think about domesticity in the world today. The South African artist is known for creating his intricate works using materials such as ribbon, leather and wood, often exploring the very materiality of the works themselves and their associated notions. Working within the context of his South African heritage, Hlobo’s Umbhovuzo is part of a performative installation that saw its first iteration at his 2016 exhibition Sewing Saw, presented at Stevenson in Cape Town, South Africa.

Nicholas Hlobo, 'UmBhovuzo: The Parable of the Sower' 2016 Performance © Nicholas Hlobo. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg Photo: Mario Todeschini

Nicholas Hlobo, ‘UmBhovuzo: The Parable of the Sower’ 2016 Performance © Nicholas Hlobo. Courtesy of Stevenson, Cape Town and Johannesburg Photo: Mario Todeschini

The Performa 17 Grand Finale will take place on Sunday 19 November and celebrates the closing of the Biennial, with the presentation of The Malcolm McLaren Award in honour of the late artist and visionary for whom the award is named. The prize is awarded to an artist whose contribution to the biennial demonstrates a “risk-taking and irreverent spirit”, praising the most innovative and thought-provoking performance.

Junni Chen

1940

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Research as Practice, Exhibition as Inquiry, Archive as Verb: Hammad Nasar at Experimenter Curators’ Hub 2017

Participating in Experimenter Curators’ Hub 2017, the London-based curator, writer and researcher presented a run-down of his recent projects.

Art Radar looks at some of the highlights of his presentation.

Hammad Nasar, Curator of National Pavilion UAE 2017. Image courtesy National Pavilion UAE.

Hammad Nasar, Curator of National Pavilion UAE 2017. Image courtesy National Pavilion UAE.

For me, exhibitions really are a way to think with artists and, through art, about the world. – Hammad Nasar

Speaking at length about his curatorial practice during Experimenter Curators’ Hub 2017, the former Head of Research and Programmes at Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong, connected the dots between research, the exhibition and the archive. Known for his research-intensive exhibitions, Hammad Nasar attempted to deliver his thesis on these three disparate elements of his own curatorial practice. Touching on the main projects that he curated over the years, including “Rock, Paper, Scissors: Positions in Play”, the UAE’s national pavilion at the 57th Venice Art Biennale (2017), as well as “Lines of Control: Partition as a Productive Space” at Johnson Museum, Cornell University & Nasher Museum, Duke University (2012-13), Nasar provided an overview of his methodologies for his selected projects, elaborating on the differences in curatorial approaches and styles for each of them.

His talk came as part of the 7th edition of the Experimenters Curators’ Hub, which took place over three days. Hosted by Experimenter gallery in India, this year’s edition included Barbara Piwowarska, Lauren Cornell, Olivier Kaeser, Pedro de Almeida, Reem Fadda, Roobina Karode, Ruba Katrib and Nada Raza. Culminating as a series of presentations and talks at Experimenter, the platform was aimed at advancing critical discourse surrounding curatorial practice and exhibition making.

Hrair Sarkissian, 'City Fabric(No.1)', 2010, Lines of Control: Partition as a Productive Space at Johnson Museum of Art, New York

Hrair Sarkissian, ‘City Fabric(No.1)’, 2010, Lines of Control: Partition as a Productive Space at Johnson Museum of Art, New York

Curatorial collaboration in “Lines of Control: Partition as a Productive Space”

Addressing one of the thorniest issues in modern India’s history of independence and nation-building, “Lines of Control” may well be remembered as one of Nasar’s more ambitious projects to date. Taking place over three different museums with Nasar as co-curator of the exhibition, the show was an attempt to grapple with one of the bloodiest episodes in India’s recent history. With the country being split into two different sovereign nations, with a resultant estimated 10 to 15 million killed, the exhibition served – in part – as a commemorative exercise, the Partition having taken place 60 years since the show first debuted.

Revealing that the main impulse behind the making of the exhibition was the apparent lack of visual memory left behind by what could qualify as one of the most distressing events in world history, Nasar noted that the exhibition began to map out pertinent visual responses that contemporary South Asian artists created. Demarcating the Partition as a “productive space” – as a space that spurred not just the production of new discourses involved in nation-building and national identity-formation, but also a space that encouraged a creative engagement with the subject matter itself – the project was a documentary, of sorts, of the visual responses that arose from Partition.

The exhibition became (as described by Nasar) a longue durée project. Beginning in 2005, the exhibition developed over a series of workshops and iterations, before finally developing into its mature form in 2012. Described as a series of collaborations after collaborations with various artists, institutional faculty and other interested parties, the process of making “Lines of Control” was marked by an iterative spirit that, as Nasar explained, allowed him the opportunity for “self-learning”. As Nasar noted,

it became a machine for collaboration […] there is a Gujarati saying, “if you’re going to eat an elephant, do it in small bites.” I think that was very much a part of Lines of Control. If I am going to tweak it [the saying] a little bit, I think it helps if you have time to digest, and if you have a whole bunch of friends that you can invite to the party.

“Lines of Control”, it seemed, was a practice in curatorial collaboration; of learning and growing alongside peers whilst letting an idea simmer.

"Rock, Paper, Scissors: Positions in Play", United Arab Emirates Pavilion, 13 May - 26 November 2017, 57th Venice Biennale. Image courtesy National Pavilion United Arab Emirates."Rock, Paper, Scissors: Positions in Play", United Arab Emirates Pavilion, 13 May - 26 November 2017, 57th Venice Biennale. Image courtesy National Pavilion United Arab Emirates.

“Rock, Paper, Scissors: Positions in Play”, United Arab Emirates Pavilion, 13 May – 26 November 2017, 57th Venice Biennale. Image courtesy National Pavilion United Arab Emirates.

Extreme sports: “Rock, Paper, Scissors: Positions in Play”

Exploring the construction of “home” through familiar past-time games, Nasar’s most recent exhibition at the 57th Venice Biennale, “Rock, Paper, Scissors” explored the role of play in the construction of one’s national identity. Involving five artists who thought of the UAE as “home”, the exhibition investigated how we made sense of the world through the act of playing. Nasar’s approach to “Rock, Paper, Scissors” was markedly different. If “Lines of Control” was a long duration project, his work for the national pavilion at the Venice Biennale was a short, quick-fire operation.

"Rock, Paper, Scissors: Positions in Play", United Arab Emirates Pavilion, 13 May - 26 November 2017, 57th Venice Biennale. Image courtesy National Pavilion United Arab Emirates.

“Rock, Paper, Scissors: Positions in Play”, United Arab Emirates Pavilion, 13 May – 26 November 2017, 57th Venice Biennale. Image courtesy National Pavilion United Arab Emirates.

"Rock, Paper, Scissors: Positions in Play", United Arab Emirates Pavilion, 13 May - 26 November 2017, 57th Venice Biennale. Image courtesy National Pavilion United Arab Emirates.

“Rock, Paper, Scissors: Positions in Play”, United Arab Emirates Pavilion, 13 May – 26 November 2017, 57th Venice Biennale. Image courtesy National Pavilion United Arab Emirates.

He noted that the focus of this project was navigating the platform of the Venice Biennale and the concept of a “national” pavilion. Focused less on the notion of collaboration, Nasar acknowledged that Venice was a unique constellation that made curatorial work different than from other contexts. In a previous interview with ArtReview, Nasar mentioned that logistical challenges itself made Venice an “extreme sport” when it came to curating.

"Rock, Paper, Scissors: Positions in Play", United Arab Emirates Pavilion, 13 May - 26 November 2017, 57th Venice Biennale. Image courtesy National Pavilion United Arab Emirates.

“Rock, Paper, Scissors: Positions in Play”, United Arab Emirates Pavilion, 13 May – 26 November 2017, 57th Venice Biennale. Image courtesy National Pavilion United Arab Emirates.

Grappling with colonialism: London, Asia

Commissioned by the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in 2012, Sophie Ernst’s Silent Empress was a key artwork that Nasar covered during his presentation at Experimenter.

Silent Empress involved the voice projection of a monologue from a megaphone attached to the statue of Queen Victoria, appearing as though the Queen was gesturing towards an apology for Britain’s colonial past. 30 minutes elapsed until the authorities deemed it disrespectful, and the project ended prematurely. Nasar noted:

I think we need our statues to speak uncomfortable truths. The cultural sphere in functioning democracies should be a profoundly unsafe space for sacred cows.

Nasar’s London, Asia was conceptualised as a range of projects that addressed colonial legacies and sought to look reflexively back upon the very hybrid identities that it had left behind in contemporary Britain. A collaborative project with others such as Sarah Turner, Nasar’s London, Asia was a curatorial intervention that reflected upon contemporary society’s reactions towards colonial legacies, such as with Sophie Ernst’s Silent Empress, and how it shapes how we view ourselves and others. Responding to his own identity as a South Asian, living in London, Nasar’s project can be read as a grappling with the complex challenges of having to deal with the visual legacies of colonialism that inhabited the same spaces as the peoples that it had affected. Statues, Nasar noted, should not be silent. With much of his own curatorial practice focused on dealing with the notions of empire, London, Asia closed Nasar’s presentation, bringing certain lines of inquiry back into play.

Junni Chen

1930

Related topics: events in India, political art, Curatorial practice, video summaries

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