Tejal Shah showed a surreal universe where unicorn women collect plastic and communicate through a mirror within a lunar setting. The film tackles issues such as sexuality, body, kinship and productiveness while blurring boundaries and categories.
Elisabetta Marabotto of Saffronart shares a note on “Take Me Elsewhere” a video program curated by Diana Campbell Betancourt in New York
London: Vanity Projects in New York is currently hosting “Take Me Elsewhere” until November 30.
Logic of Birds, Sonia Khurana, 2006. Image Courtesy of the Artist
Vanity Projects, a high end nail art atelier, decided to undertake a thrilling and challenging project: to make video art more accessible to a wider audience and change the way collectors and art-lovers perceive and experience video art.
The program, curated by Mumbai based curator Diana Campbell Betancourt, revolves around the concept of mentally escaping the limitations of physical reality. Six artists: Hemali Bhuta, Tejal Shah, Neha Choksi, Sahej Rahal, Sonia Khurana and Vishal K Dar explore in different ways our mental power to escape elsewhere, even for a moment.
Saras, Sahej Rahal. Courtesy of the Artist and Chatterjee & Lal, Mumbai
Highlights of the exhibition are “Minds to Lose” by Neha Choksi and “Between the Waves Channel II (Landfill Dance)” by Tejal Shah.
Neha Choksi in her video experiences the act of losing consciousness from the physical body through the radical act of anaesthetizing herself and four farm animals whilst the audience was encouraged to pet both the artist and the animals. The video discusses the meaning of having a mind and rational consciousness for a body under general anaesthesia.
New York: Sahej Rahal’s is prepped up for his second innings at Chatterjee & Lal gallery, Mumbai. We caught up with the artist last year, at the gallery, during his exhibit Bhramana II – a live performance art. It was a characterial confluence of art, history and mythical performance, to Rahal the elements of Bhramana II came together from varied sources. He said “The characters that inhabit these performances bare indices to different cultures, mythologies and pop culture.” While Bhramana I a sequel of Bhramana II, was a momentary performance act, his Tandav III is a photographic representation in a surreal setting.
A versatile artist Sahej Rahal converts everything around him into a creative exploration. He is known to intersperse reality with illusion. Having trained under Tejal Shah, Nikhil Chopra, Shumona Goel and Sophie Ernst his works are an amalgamation, of their teachings and techniques ranging from sculpture, video art and performing art. He has collaborated and worked at International forums, both in India and abroad. A short stint at Zurich residential program he created sculptures and installation with reference to war.
A visual milieu, Sahej Rahal’s artworks are cryptic evolution of various fictional and real time heroes. Being a hard-core Star Wars fan, one is lost in his monastic ‘Jedi’ like forms taking the center stage in his pictorial representation. He was influenced by Joseph Beuys a German, a Happening and performance artist, during his creation of Bhramana series, he said “I was going back to look at the things Beuys was looking at, the idea of the shaman as the storyteller, and looking at the art making process as a kind of alchemy.”
Threading the path of creating a surreal character in a real life urban ambience, Sahej Rahal has a child like euphoric reaction to every object he comes across. To Rahal found objects play a critical role in his creations, a bath tub was an integral part of his video creation as was the didgeridoo instrument in his Bhramana II performance art. In the two minute film a monk like character has a bath in a mundane bath tub in a surreal ritual. He fascinated by war, rituals, ceremonial processes and myths. He is an artist with full of zeal and gives it all to his art he says “I just pick the coolest things I come across… it’s a lot of fun.”
Sahej Rahal’s current exhibit, Forerunner transpires from these diverse experience and explorations. A series of photography, video documentary and sculptures the show is a visual maze. One gets enamoured by the other worldly creatures and the dynamism.
Forerunner is on display at Chatterjee & Lal gallery, Mumbai until 28 September 2013.
Emily Jane Cushing suggests the ‘Move on Asia’ exhibition of Asian video art from 2002 to 2012.
London: The ZKM | Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Germany opened on February 9th their exhibition which shows the development of the video art genre and the increasing importance of Asia in contemporary art; the exhibition runs until August 4th 2013.
The increased interest in Asian arts resulted in the 2007 exhibition at the ZKM | Karlsruhe curated by Wonil Rhee entitled “Thermocline of Art. New Asian Waves”. This exhibition was hugely successful in attracting world-wide attention to the Asiatic ‘moving image’; despite being only six years prior and fifty years since the emergence of video art, the need for a follow on exhibition showing the huge development in this genre is needed.
It is noted that as an art genre video art has continually been associated with the West despite much of the technology originating in Asia. This exhibition proves that over the last couple of decades the culture of video art has gained greater independence from Western models by showing at biennale’s and art exhibitions across the world.
The vast exhibition, containing over 140 works, is made up of works from video artists originating from thirteen Asiatic countries including China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. In addition to the showing of established artists, recent works by new artists are also shown.
An interactive installation entitled “Global Fire” by the Paris-based artist Du Zhenjun may also be viewed in connection with the exhibition. “Global Fire” is a large inflatable dome in which the visitors may ignite the flags of 200 countries with lighters on heat censors. Also on show in the ZKM_PanoramaLab is the interactive video installation “40+4. Art is Not Enough! Not Enough” in which forty Shanghai based artists are interviewed about their works and asked to question their art in relation to the environment and the social impact of their artistic production. This installation resulting from the collaboration between the curator Davide Quadrio, the filmmaker Lothar Spree as well as the video artist Xiaowen Zhu is truly insightful and fascinating.
This exhibition runs until 4th August 2013; view the website for more details on this exciting exhibition.
Also, for those wishing to read more about Indian video art, I have found a really interesting article from Tehelka Magazine with Pakistani artist Bani Abidi discussing Indian Video art and it’s increased popularity here; it’s a great read!
As a curator new to Mumbai, I found the metropolis thriving, fascinating—and sometimes maddening. There is a tight-knit contemporary art community in the city that has become accustomed to international curators swooping in and out like the ubiquitous Bombay crows. They flit around the city, alighting briefly to snap up morsels of sustenance. Yet no bird’s-eye view, colleague’s description, or online research could substitute for sustained experience on the ground. I arrived in India for a sabbatical of sorts in September 2010, and my method of acclimating was to call as many artists as possible right away, to find out what they were up to and who was most interesting. Within about six months, I had founded a contemporary art exhibition space known as the Mumbai Art Room, a small nonprofit that provides a platform for artistic experimentation.
My first impression of the Bombay art scene was simplistic. I observed an abiding preference for painting and sculpture, built on a solid foundation of local modernism that was established in the late 1960s and early ’70s. But looking closer, I realized that performance, photography, video, and social practice were also quite healthy in a communal atmosphere characterized by mutual respect, open discourse, and experimentation. Performance art, it seems to me, is particularly strong; there is a lot brewing, and the vibe is infectiously positive. A couple of caveats, however: both public and private funding for the arts is grossly inadequate, and right-wing Hindu extremism is a constant potential source of swift censorship and draconian repression.
Tejal Shah, still from Between the Waves, 2012. Five-channel color and black-and-white video installation with sound, 85 minutes. Image courtesy: The Guggenheim New York
One of the two artworks I want to discuss here, though made in India, would likely be shut down in a heartbeat if it were shown in public in Mumbai. It is a 2012 video installation by Mumbai artist Tejal Shah, who self-identifies as multidisciplinary, feminist, queer, and political. Titled Between the Waves, this multi-channel work was exhibited at Documenta 13 and features Shah and others as fictitious creatures—“humanimals”—cavorting and engaging in various activities, some of them explicitly erotic. It is a strange, beautiful, and imaginative work, but also one that pushes uncomfortably at the boundaries of societal expectations around transgender identity, sexuality, and narrative form. Between the Waves garnered a decidedly mixed critical response, and Shah herself has described the work as “awkward” and “unbounded.” Shah is a bold and innovative artist, yet she is also vulnerable and in need of critical affirmation at a time when, mid-career, she cannot expect broad local support.
Tushar Joag, Hypohydro Hyperhighrise, 2011. Public performance. Image courtesy: The Guggenheim, New York
The second artist I want to spotlight, Tushar Joag, has little in common with Shah except for a use of innovative performative methods to address politically charged subject matter. Joag again and again probes the problematic and inequitable development of land in Mumbai in particular, and in India in general. He cannot stomach the greed, unfair distribution of basic resources, and resulting displacements of disenfranchised citizens. In Hypohydro Hyperhighrise, 2011, for example, a project that was commissioned as a part of a series of public art interventions throughout Mumbai, he presents a simultaneously entertaining and incisive scenario. For this work, Joag hired a troupe of boys and young men to form a 20-foot-tall human pyramid and water fountain. The pyramid component of this acrobatic stunt referenced a familiar annual religious tradition celebrating the Hindu god Krishna. Joag cleverly repurposed the action to refer instead to inadequate planning around the skyscraper apartment buildings that have sprouted throughout this densely populated city, and the water shortages that have resulted from it. The message was dead serious, while the atmosphere was quasi-carnivalesque. Curious crowds gathered wherever the work was performed.
All over this country, one bumps into street processions, public acts of political activism, folk performances, and religious rituals. Within the more circumscribed field of contemporary art, performance has been nurtured for over a decade by KHOJ International Artists’ Association in New Delhi, and more recently by Mohile Parikh Center and Art Oxygen in Mumbai. Even when new works are too sensitive to present locally, they still manage to resonate in the international art scene. Myriad forms of public expression, action, and acting out are very much a part of this culture’s DNA—in the world’s largest democratic country, they simply cannot be suppressed.