Disillusion of caring

Art review
Last Updated 11 July 2010, 18:57 IST

The reference to the ‘60s film genre here avoids any obviousness, but serves as an inspirational focus on certain attitudes to the world and aesthetics that cinema verite emphasised in its time and that continue in the work spirit and methods of many contemporaries.

The common strands are probing unadorned reality with brutal frankness, interaction of technology and document with suggestiveness and personal touch, unbridled spontaneity revealing and being steered to reveal an often uncomfortable truth in a language intrinsic to the camera. Although not clarified by the curator, the element of chance stressed by him can be understood as random encounters whose apparent incongruity throws up hidden, essential layers of things and yields moods and metaphors.

The seven Indian and international artists source from diverse aspects of film and the photographic image without even addressing cinema verite directly, but Merali is able to make the viewer recognise a number of strands that deep down link with this heritage and in a way show their debt to it.

To follow the curator’s sequence of foci, the “forensic cinema” part examines and lets erupt to the surface visceral, animalistic drives of uncontrollable humanity.

Parvathi Nayar juxtaposes “Awara” still close-ups with conventional stages of romantic love to the surging chaos of cell fertilisation, the cinematic and the microscopic evidencing the brutality underneath mediated by the precision of a seemingly delicate draughtsmanship that blends in traces of photographic grain, digital blur and low-end graphic posters.

Marina Roy’s video in a riot of painterly and animation-like colour and line surfs through invisible apartment walls to discover an enormity of weird, subconscious fantasies and instincts let loose by the intimacy of the space, its erstwhile patrician culture being submerged by a beastly organic substratum. The artists of “The dominant episteme” chapter face the immediate, literal presence of people and objects from within its own ironies constructing their denouncement and an appeal for respect.

Subba Ghosh, alluding to the photography-based advertising cut-outs of cinematic and political heroes, paints hyper-realistic portraits of the guardians-servants of our urban insecurity in order to, in subversive punning as well as empathy, return individuality to the faces on their uniforms. ‘The Decalogue” of Prasad Raghavan, in a subtly general reference to Kieslowski’s film and to ethics, spreads out frontal surfaces densely packed with multiplied photographs with used up objects of consumption, conjuring a veritable rubbish dump of the indulgency and greed civilisation which has filled the physical surroundings and the entire horizon.

“The liberty image” is found in the defiant, imaginative individual streaks of black youths from the slums whose cockiness, however, covers up vulnerability and hopelessness, their open, realistically expressive portraits by Attila Richard Luckacs, the wood grain ground enhancing their raw authenticity along with the sense of wasted lives ahead.
The conclusion, “Wait” comes as anticipation of inevitable and self-generated doom.
Ravikumar Kashi sees it in the erosion and confused twisting of moral values. His prints have a plastic, bazaar statuette of Gandhi lost and insignificant while confronting his bewilderment in a hall of mirrors, the work having been triggered by the memory of a Bruce Lee film scene. A truly apocalyptic vision of natural forces dislodged and unleashed by man now engulfing the world is offered by Charly Nijensohn.

The calm, coolly aesthetic flow of the videos has a chilling effect as it conjures images of deluge waters indifferent to the figures of suited human survivors shakily floating on vestiges of support.

One should appreciate the excellent display which not only presents the contributions but creates an almost art work-like environment of the whole.

The gallery, painted a grey of pessimism and of black and white celluloid, has been restructured to provide an architectural interior for two small cinema hall-evoking spaces and to frame-display the rest of the exhibits frequently in unusual and suggestive configurations.

The comparatively narrow passage along the main cubicle in the centre allows the spectator to watch the works with an awareness of the compact presence of the other images.

While the display is balanced, with enough, even plenty of distance between individual pieces, that awareness brings a tinge of oppressiveness, so reflecting the dark views, the anger and the disgust of the artists who care too much and observe too sharply for their affirmation of life to prevail over their disappointment and distress.

The only reservation concerns Merali’s essay which could have perhaps explained itself better in a less arcane vocabulary.

(Published 11 July 2010, 18:56 IST)

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