CUTTING ACROSS BARRIERS

Review by Hemavathy Guha
February 15, 2018

 

Building Bridges
An international digital & new media art project
Curated by Ushmita Sahu
In collaboration with Emergent Art Space, USA
February 2-13, 2018
Art Konsult, New Delhi.

Ushmita Sahu, the young energetic curator has brought an interesting exhibition of digital and new media art project to Delhi. The words, ‘digital’ does not evoke that much enthusiasm in me, but this is one exhibition, which I do not regret having visited and seen.

Ushmita feels as most of us do that the world we live in today is divided by borders, differences of culture, language, religious ideology and ethnic conflicts leading to intolerance at various levels which ultimately positions all of us in different zones. And the only zone where we are free from all these shackles and can claim to be living in a borderless world and closer to one another with just a click away is the ‘internet’ and the vast arena it provides. She has conceived and curated an exhibition where all the activities of selection of the artists, sharing of ideas and thoughts took place over the web, where they did not know one another in a physical term. The works created by the participating artists are also such that they can be seen and enjoyed over the net itself like photographs, video and sound installations and such. But ultimately, as I have seen in similar projects and artists working in such realms, the need to be seen ‘visually’ and physically takes over, and the works have to be displayed in a white cube gallery in a way that people can view the works collectively. So, this beautiful project conceived and played online over a month ultimately is being exhibited in various galleries across Kolkatta, Delhi and Bangalore. But the credit goes to Ushmita who has downloaded, printed and mounted all the works and got them neatly displayed according to their genre.

In an international exhibition of this magnitude, some works capture your attention a little more! Ashok Vaish’s video installation takes the role and transformation of the two women characters from the epics ‘Mahabharata and the Ramayana’ which are actually played by men in the festivals of ‘Kharaga’ and Ramlila’ respectively. In the video, the same person drapes and removes the attire of a female (of a saree) that of Dhroupati and Sita. Through this video, the artist says, he is trying to explore gender fluidity and transformation and retelling the myth of the two women born of fire and earth.

The Chinese artist Denke Chen has tried to create a digital animation/installation ‘Humanimal kingdom’ depicting the impact of the environmental degradation on our civilized world and the consequences and byproduct of it. His work speaks about the extreme air pollution in china and how it affects the animal kingdom also who are shown wearing gas masks, the use of which began during the world war II when citizens were given masks to wear. His work uses a 3D technology.

Jasmina Runevska from Macedonia talks about memory and how women keep their secrets hidden, which they cannot speak about openly. Symbolically the various digital photographs show things kept in a jar, shelf, closet with sound installation where she speaks in her own language which too one cannot comprehend.

One of the interesting works is that of Souvik Majumdar whose photo installation consists of various familiar objects and spaces in his home where he has spent his growing years. His mother’s handbag hanging on the wall, the mosquito net or the files arranged in a cabinet, the photograph negatives are all memoirs for him and using his ability in the digital medium, he plays with the inanimate objects. A sound track also accompanies the images based on his home, daily life and surroundings where you can hear his mother calling out to him, or the ringing tones of a phone.

The Irish artist Kate Mcelroy has used the hand and the various functions it performs like giving, receiving, protecting and even pushing away. By using the hand gestures as a metaphor, she tries to play with our perceptions to see beneath the surface and reality. Her works on semi transparent paper are quite pleasing to the eye.

South African artist, Nathi Khumalo in his work titled ‘Anomalies’ has created a collage using analogue photography consisting primarily of black and white photography to document the places and structures he has occupied since childhood. The images are taken from the CBD of Johannesburg with its colonial structures, but with which other countries are also familiar who had had that experience. He has manipulated the scenes quite skillfully and they do not just look like documentation.

Pranoy  Dutta, from Kolkatta talks about the by now familiar concept, yet valid of environmental degradation. He has reworked on a set of photographic prints with ink and turpentine creating mysterious landscapes. The spaces he encounters are devoid of human presence like an under construction building or an abandoned railway station.

Sarasija subramanyan’s digital prints titled Sea Monsters/bred in captivity is based on her recent experience of spending six weeks near a coral form and hatchery in Ireland. It is presented in the form an accordion and is her interpretation of the dialogue between a scientific space like the coral hatchery and the vast and untouched landscape of Ireland.

Sonam chaturvedi from Mathura has presented a sound installation and an artist book titled ‘time, thoughts, incoherent.

Tatjana Huong Hendrieckx who is originally from Vietnam, but who was adopted and now lives in Belgium .By living in different cultures, she reflects on the issues of belonging and home in her artist’s book titled ‘envision’

Vishal Kumaraswamy’s video installation titled ‘man up ‘ is based upon some of the discussions he had with other artists in the blog on colonalisation and its effects as well as on the notion of ‘other’.

The Mexican artist Alejandro Zertuche has presented a video from the  ‘Fragile project’ which is an ongoing material investigation on Obsidian stones researching on the physical and symbolic possibilities of the stone.

Bhargava Barla, has presented four digital prints on doors and windows. He explores the two different scenes, which can be seen on either side, like the visual, the light or the mood of the person.

The exhibition titled ‘Building brides’ has been organised in collaboration with the US based NGO Emergent Art Space. Project Building Bridges was designed to encourage 13 young artists from across the globe to come together and foster a voice of reason and dialogue and help create a platform for empathy and understanding through art, creativity and exchange beginning with an exchange on an online blog, which lasted for a month (October 2017).