NEW YORK, NY.-
The Deutsche Bank Series at the Guggenheim: Being Singular Plural, the first exhibition of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
to focus exclusively on artistic production in South Asia, presents new film, video, and sound-based works by seven of the most innovative and visionary contemporary artists, filmmakers, and media practitioners living and working in India today. This exhibition marks the first time that these artists are showing work in a North American museum and is assembled as part of the Guggenheims global Asian Art Program. Being Singular Plural is organized by Sandhini Poddar, Associate Curator, Asian Art, at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, and will be on view March 2 through June 6, 2012.
Expanding on its original 2010 Deutsche Guggenheim presentation, the exhibition presents eight projects dispersed among the museums Annex galleries, New Media Theater, and outdoors along the exterior ramp leading from Fifth Avenue down to the Sackler Center for Arts Education. The New York installation continues to focus on researching and co-producing new work with its community of practitioners: Desire Machine Collective (Sonal Jain and Mriganka Madhukaillya), Shumona Goel and Shai Heredia, Amar Kanwar, and Kabir Mohanty and Vikram Joglekar.
According to Ms. Poddar, This group of artists and filmmakers all draw inspiration from their experiences in South Asia, but a closer reading of their work reveals a transnational context that highlights some of the most significant political events, aesthetic forms, and critical theories defining contemporary culture today. While recent exhibitions of contemporary art from India have celebrated finished works as end products and often contextualized them in light of the countrys economic boom and strong art market, the works in Being Singular Plural assert the quieter principles of practice, process, and perception.
Philosopher Jean-Luc Nancys notion of being singular plural provides the exhibitions structural framework and intellectual scaffolding. Created with a profound recognition of the interconnectedness of all beings, the selected films, videos, and sound installations invite visitors to reassess conventional boundaries between such categories as fact and fiction, art and cinema, the still and moving image, and objectivity and subjectivity. By manipulating sound, image, and text in experimental ways, the artists in Being Singular Plural explore the social possibilities within the technology of these mediums. The works posit new modes of phenomenological and physiological address for the viewer, shifting these positions from passive spectatorship to active participation.
Desire Machine Collective (Sonal Jain and Mriganka Madhukaillya), whose name derives from the philosophical writing of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, seeks to redirect attention toward careful looking, watching, and listening. Jain and Madhukaillya have been working collaboratively since 2004 to examine the roles that moving images play in recording social histories and investigating the limits of these roles. In 2007 they established Periferry 1.0, an ongoing migratory artists project using a government-leased ferry docked on the Brahmaputra River in the heart of Guwahati, the duos hometown, in northeast India. At the Guggenheim, the collective will install a site-specific interactive sound piece, Trespassers Will (Not) Be Prosecuted (2012), as a round-the-clock public artwork outside the museum inspired by sounds collected in a sacred forest. The exhibition will also include two new moving-image projects by Desire Machine Collective in the Annex galleries: Residue (2011), a 35 mm work filmed in an abandoned power plant on the outskirts of Guwahati, and Nishan (2007 ), a meditative four-channel video installation shot in the city of Srinagar in Kashmir, the contested state that lies on the political fault line between India and Pakistan.
Shumona Goels films investigate the stories of people who often go unheard or events that go unwitnessed. For Being Singular Plural, she and co-director Shai Heredia present I am micro (2011), a contemplative, nonlinear 35-mm black-and-white film that mixes a documentary approach with visual poetry to pay tribute to small-scale independent filmmaking and grassroots collaboration. Lyrical tracking shots of obsolete machinery and dismembered cameras in a defunct Kolkata-based company once involved in the design, manufacture, and development of cameras and film equipment is paired with behind-the-scenes footage from the set of an independent fiction film in Mumbai. A stream-of-consciousness voiceover provides ruminations on loss and forgetfulness within Indian cinema, indirectly lending insight into the fragility and isolation of the solitary filmmaker and the hazards and challenges of independent filmmaking. In their ongoing work, Goel and Heredia are committed to excavating and exploring cinematic histories, rethinking conventional techniques, and supporting experimental filmmaking.
Amar Kanwars complex films and videos are fragmented narratives of violence, displacement, and resistance told through lyrical images and texts that elicit a compassionate response. Kanwars nineteen channel video installation The Torn First Pages (200408) indirectly portrays (among other stories) the unbelievable horrors perpetrated by the Burmese junta on its people as well as the lives of Burmese exiles in Norway and the United States. The videos, projected onto several sheets of paper attached to steel armatures, envelop viewers in multiple spatial, emotional, and temporal zones. Kanwar is deeply interested in conflating genres in order to open up new relations and destroy any solitary system of address by adopting multiple venues for display and methodologies for seeing. His films and videos are both acts of political resistance as well as sensitive commemorations of other peoples lives. His Guggenheim presentation will include a reading area where visitors can digitally access a living archive of ongoing news footage from Burma gathered since the inception of the Being Singular Plural project in 2009.
Kabir Mohanty also encourages alternative types of visual and auditory experience. Some of his videos are conceived for monitors that fit in the palm of ones hand while others test the durational limits of attention. For Being Singular Plural, Mohanty designs a diagrammatic space in the museums galleries that will be used to screen his epic video Song for an ancient land (200312). Combining new and archival footage with complex sound design, the artist pans, inverts, curves, and otherwise deconstructs the material bases of his images in order to reveal the artifice of his construction and the physicality of video as a medium. Mohantys approach stems from a filmmakers sensibility but moves beyond this traditional framework to develop an innovative vision for video. Together with sound engineer and designer Vikram Joglekar, Mohanty will also present an interactive sound installation titled In Memory (2009/2012), which mixes prerecorded tracks with sound effects generated by museum visitors as they enter a Foley pit as well as exterior noises transmitted live from 89th Street just outside the museum.