Invisible in non-space

Invisible in non-space

Art review

Invisible in non-space

Night Shift

As a result, such individuals survive in some non-space that emerges around the otherwise un-utilised nooks and surfaces on the edge between the street and proper habitations. Performing concrete, essential jobs in full view and in close proximity to apartments, while practically living exposed private lives, they nonetheless become invisible to the eye that ignores them.

 “Night Shift”, the collaborative installation by Ayisha Abraham and Dina Boswank (Max Mueller Bhavan, July 30 to August 7) addressed the issue from the most acute here perspective of migrant Nepali security guards. Although one does realise that art is no antidote to deprivation or cruelty and it will not even reach those whom it is concerned about, it is instances like this that sustain one’s trust in the cathartic potential of the artist’s effort and its impact on the audience.

Anyway, the process that engaged the artists with a few security workers must have given something at least to them. The wonderful thing about “Night Shift” was the evocation of another pervasive threshold region, one which invited the realities and feelings of the specific subjects in order to blend those with the artists’ striving to, on the one hand, attune themselves to it and, on the other, to probe it in a generalised manner.

Thus, the whole became complex, saturated with multilayered elements of the physical and the emotive as well as simple in the way of core structure and subtle, minimalist poetry. The empathy came all the better through the restrained, calm focus of respect.
One may guess that the so conjured environment relied largely on Ayisha Abraham’s continued preoccupation with the fate of security guards in the city and on her kind of visual imagination, to which the German collaborator responded finely. Using the wall, floor and two square pillars, Ayisha generated an elusive yet strong sensation around the inner world of an apartment watchman who, entrapped in the lone darkness of the parking lot basement, does his prosaic chores, talks about himself, cooks and sleeps in a corner amid pipes and rugged electrical conduits, not quite participating in the noisy traffic outside, evidently debarred from the flats and uncomfortably nostalgic about his own country.

The simultaneity of the moving, halting and partly superimposing videos from his work area, interviews and his trip to the Himalayas projected on different levels, depths and sizes conjured of the hall structure an architectural and environmental surround that suggested the pillared basement, its mood and activities, the indistinct but oppressive closeness of rising urban facades and traffic overlaid by a periodical appearance of the sky with a bird in flight.

The spectator could, indeed, intuit the “One Way” progression from the free, lofty hills to the civic underbelly and the edge of the inside and outside. If Ayisha concentrated on the vaster dimension, Dina Boswank’s videos, sourcing from similar circumstances, took a fragmented proximity angle towards the people as emotive individuals depersonalised by the nature of their labour but retaining the troubled now spirit of their provenance.

The images being dominated by close-ups of security personnel checking visitor’s bags, the projected text slowly unfolded intimate words relating stories of migration, work, accidents, discomforts and nightmare where the phantasmagoria of archaic folklore and myth mingled with subconscious fears.

The clash between the two realities was enhanced by the sheer contrast between the neutrality of the tactile, chaotic density the film and the unassuming lyricism of the words which admitted harsh accents of the real.

The camera works were bridged by an extraordinary installation which on another plane brought out the rough innards and the poetics of the predicament. Stretched across the expansive room, was an entanglement of black electrical cables that traversed swiftly somewhere along the paths of birds, gathered in loose, unwieldy webs and suspended limp over the floor.

One could sense in it a palpable strain, aspiration, exertion and resignation, while the wires linking to the open gut of apartment basements conjured an aura of veins and messed up connections, directions or emotions in people inhabiting those.

As one put one’s ear to the small monitors to hear cracking sounds of things cluttering, of sweeping over traffic and human voices or wind, the coarseness of it let in recognition of tenderness.

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