March 19, 2010
When is a table lamp not a table lamp or a squirrel not a rodent? When does a handkerchief become a cat, Schrödinger notwithstanding? When is the Truth a half-truth?
Debraj Goswami’s acrylic on canvasses have that sort of sleight of hand quality; blink and something else might appear in its place.
“It all started with small 1 square foot canvasses of symbols and forms that would not go away just as the Godhra nightmare still comes back to shake us up”. Debraj’s close proximity to Godhra both in geography, he lives and works out of Baroda, and his ‘socio-political’ bent made him investigate the reality and illusion of war, its carnage and its weapons. The accusatory, finger-pointing hand of Michelangelo’s god is omniscient and ubiquitous. 20 small canvasses mosaic-morph into My experiments with Half Truths.
In Godly Fingers, that hand is being hurled at an Adam, who could easily be replaced by you the viewer, standing helpless against a pegboard. The hand-dart intentionally misses the target with some divine magic. Adam lives another day to tell more lies or not reveal the whole truth.
The spin doctors and six-pack muscular media-politicians protect themselves from a barren, nuclear polluted word with rose-tinted gas masks pretending with a magician’s candor that war does not exist, Guernica however is leaking from under the table like a bribe. There is a childish boast – realization in ‘See I’m growing up mummy’
The squirrel in the divine equation is a hapless innocent creature, a bhakti, the common man oblivious of the Ram-politics. It travels through several matrixes and emerges unwittingly at the other end as Alice in the looking glass. Now you see me now you don’t.
Patho(s)logical, the painting, is graphic and narrative, what goes in does come out albeit altered. But you don’t quite know which is the beginning or the end, do you read the work from right to left as in the Islamic world or the other way around. Does the truth become a falsity or do lies interface with the truth, the animate becomes the inanimate. The linear – circular.
All Goswami’s work leaves you with a feeling of déjà vu. The title to the show a take on Gandhi’s – Experiments with the Full Truth, the symbols, the metaphors, the surrealist genre, Rene Margarite, Salvador Dali, Picasso are all there lurking or spilling out perforce. The surprise element therefore is a bit dampened. The work A Brief Mystery of Time reverses scale and mass in a Hawking-Einsteinian way, a nuclear mushroom cloud diminishes the global atlas to an amniotic puppy, and you don’t need conventional weapons of mass destruction, market forces and an insurance plan can do you in.
The intrepid quadruped has a Fallacy of Four Terms, is it a dog? is it a horse? The illuminating table lamp that is supposed to shed light on the subject obfuscates the reality with a fork-filament, enlightenment is about survival and your next meal. Yet mysteriously the headless, creature-beast moves onwards to the sound of a distant drummer.
If you went in grim you’d emerge with a half frown-smile.
March 19, 2010
A suite of photographs simultaneously spread across two galleries in south Mumbai itself induces many questions. Are these two shows or is it one show divided or is it many shows that happen to be in two galleries, or could these be 51 shows each playing themselves out in disparate surroundings, in your home, office or public space?
Dayanita Singh’s Go Away Closer and Beds and Chairs happen to be positioned temporarily in two distinct galleries, Gallery Mirchandani+Steinruecke and Gallery Chemold, but it is the intention of the photographer that the show travel in a box and be exhibited maybe two or three or 5 or 7 at a time and place undetermined yet.
That is about the only explicit ‘intention’. There are no other motives in the 51 exquisitely printed, rich, square, traditional, silver bromide, and archival prints. In some sense the images are authorless, though don’t try reproducing these photographs unless you want to to invoke a copyright infringement suit.
If you are looking for a Decisive Moment, someone caught mid air over a puddle, then you will be disappointed, for most of Dayanita’s photographs look like they were there exactly the same way monthhours (sic) before and yeardays (sic) after she visited the scene of the crime. Except that there is no transgression, though these could be used as forensic evidence, physiognomy of people that inhabited the place, worked, slept, sat, lived, loved and hated there. In many ways in that on going elastic moment you catch a sense of the familiar whether it is the seat numbers in a theatre or starched Nehru shirts in a glass case. There is a sense of suspended animation, where actions have stopped and words find no utterances. It is a mute world that Dayanita Singh dopplers away closer towards. There are no captions and no arrows to direct the flow of traffic, you could theoretically intersperse one photo with another and form your own curation.
The images are unmemorable, amnesiac in the sense that they would like not to carry too much baggage of history, of human bondage, they are light as you are light or heavy and dour and humourless as you might be, they are musical if you are a percussionist and a novel if you are an author. They are detached and isolated if you are itinerant. They could be you as a schoolgirl flopped on a bed during the afternoon recess making sure you don’t dirty the cover with your shod feet.
It is like reaching home-ostasis.