Chambers of conversation

Mobile museums

Can a photograph be read in a different way?” artist Dayanita Singh has often given a thought to this idea because, for her, photography is the medium in which she thinks, breathes and lives.

The thought has finally translated into a physical museum where images talk to each other. They lead the viewer into a world full of imaginative discourse, a world he builds on his own and leaves at his behest.

The museum comes in the form of a living exhibition ‘Museum Bhavan’ where images leave “sterile” wall space and sit comfortably in square-wooden frames that are ensconced in a structure in such a fashion that they can be viewed diagonally, horizontally or even randomly.  These structures can be placed and opened out in different ways and this flexibility makes them a ‘moving museum’.

“Different people will find different things in them and create their own museums,” Singh tells Metrolife.

The conversations, which the 54-year-old seeks to initiate, will change with changing any image in the frame.  And the flexibility makes this concept a thoughtful antidote to static museum space.  “Every change in image will change the conversation. I change one thing and your reading of it chances,” she points out.

It might not be easy to comprehend what the artist aims to achieve till one visits the exhibition at the Kiran Nadar Museum and spends sometime among these chambers whose nomenclature is as interesting as the thought itself. So through monochromatic shades one travels from ‘File Museum’ to ‘Museum of Little Ladies’  and from ‘Museum of Photography’ to ‘Museum of Furniture’; and in between a few other, to ‘Museum of Chance’.

“You are the dream reader of the work, I don’t want to tell you the conversation but I want you to find a conversation through this work. What difference does it make to you if I tell you that I took this picture here or there?” she asks, adding such factual information isn’t required considering the focus in the frame is on a single object.

“It is like a go away closer game I am playing with you. I am giving you hints and not telling you the whole story so that I give you an entry point and you can build your own experiences from it and create your own story. So what you build from this museum is not individual images and hopefully a feeling... a slightly disoriented feeling.”

Singh is best described as a bookmaker working with photography. Her prominent publications include Zakir Hussain (1986), Go Away Closer (2007), Sent a Letter (2008), File Room (2013) and Museum of Chance (2014), and all have been previously shown in London, Frankfurt and Chicago.

What Singh wants to achieve through these museums is to “take the fact away from photography because that gets in the way of how people experience an image”. “I want to pull you in this and don’t want to shut you out. I want to create the possibility for you to create something out of it,” she says.

“I want you to look at these frames the way you look at a painting or sculptures. Can we bring that into photography? I want to bring in that element,” she adds.

A proud soloist, she admits she is lucky and blessed, but at the same time, she emphasises how she had made room for every opportunity in her life.

“Opportunity comes to everybody... chance is there for everyone, I just go after it, I don’t let go off it. Main chodti nahi kisi cheez ko,” she says. Museum Bhavan can be viewed at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art till June 30.

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