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.