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Grand Finale of Video Wednesday at Gallery Espace

From:     Shilpa Abraham
Category: Exhibitions
Date:     24 July 2009
Time:     06:59 AM


New Delhi: As a historical and path-breaking presentation of video art, Gallery Espace announces the
grand finale of its one-year-long Video Wednesday programme with video art from more than 60 artists
at Gallery Espace, 16, Community Centre, New Friends Colony, from July 29, 2009 to August 1, 2009
(11 a.m. to 7 p.m.). 

Says Renu Modi, Director, Gallery Espace: “Video art has become a very important and popular medium
not only in global but also in the Indian scenario. It was for the first time in the history of
Indian contemporary art that a private gallery took the initiative to showcase video art regularly
for a year within a serious but informal structure. Just as Espace’s previous shows on contemporary
drawings, sculptures and pop-art created a brand new market, this initiative is bound to foster a
similar excitement amongst connoisseurs of experimental art.”

Curated by art critic and curator, JohnyML, Video Wednesday started in July 2008 as part of the
“Reach Out” programme of Gallery Espace. The idea was to encourage local audiences for contemporary
video art produced by Indian artists living in India and abroad. 

According to Renu Modi: “This project is getting international recognition as well and has been
invited to many other venues in India and abroad. To take the project to a wider international
audience, we will be screening select works from the gallery’s huge bank of video art as the opening
videos at the Video Lounge of India Art Summit in August, 2009. In addition, a first-time book on
video art which will encapsulate and document the one-year-long project and studies on contemporary
video art is also on its way.” 

Coming back to the forthcoming grand finale, Renu Modi adds that as a unique initiative to expand
the scope of the Video Wednesday project, five guest curators namely Nancy Adajania, Bose
Krishnamachari, Arshiya Lokhandwala, Suresh Jayaram and Gayatri Sinha have been invited to curate
special sections with their choice of artists and video works. In another path-breaking initiative,
the gallery would also be publishing an all-colour 20-page tabloid on Video Wednesday. 

Says guest curator Bose Krishnamachari who has chosen to represent the works of Amar Kanwar, Anup
Mathew Thomas, Chittrovanu Mazumdar, Kabir Mohanty and Sudarshan Shetty: “The entire project is
quite a daring one as videos were generally seen as part of group shows or solos. I appreciate that
the finale literally opens up further discourses on video art by throwing open it for guest curators
to make interventions.” 

On the other hand guest curator and cultural theorist Nancy Adajania selects Mriganka Madhukaillya,
Navjot Altaf, Ranbir Kaleka and Shilpa Gupta for this project. She adds: “Gallery Espace has always
been in the forefront to showcase experimental art. Video Wednesday is Espace’s another
path-breaking effort.”

The artists selected by guest curator Gayatri Sinha are Gigi Scaria, Manjunath Kamath, N Pushpamala
and Surekha, those selected by guest curator Suresh Jayaram are Ambuja Mahaji, Bharatesh D Yadav,
Jehangir Jani, Surekha, Siridevi Khandavilli and Umesh Maddanahalli and finally, artists selected by
curator Arshiya Lokhandwala are Aaditi Joshi, Baptist Coelho, Sharmila Samant and Sonia Khurana.  
The grand finale not only showcases the videos of the selected artists by these five guest curators
but also the videos that have been already shown in Video Wednesdays so far. 

In addition, to give a chance to younger artists who are not part of the curated sections,  a
special monitor-based projection space called Video Adda has been devised for exhibiting offbeat
videos. Featuring one-minute videos by ten young artists who were part of a video workshop conducted
by Mumbai’s Sharmila Samant and experimental videos by Satya Sai and Somu Desai, Video Adda will
remain a permanent feature at Gallery Espace.

What’s more, an Open Forum titled ‘Video Art Now and Next’, is scheduled for August 1, 2009 as part
of the finale festivities that will be moderated by art critic and curator Johny ML. The panel,
consisting of art collector Swapan Seth and video artist Kabir Mohanty among others, will discuss
the nuances of Indian contemporary video art practices from various perspectives.

Says JohnyML, Project Curator of Video Wednesday: “Video has been one of the most domesticated
visual mediums since the advent of VHS tapes, players and recorders in Indian market during mid
1980s. However, video art took a lot of time to catch the imagination of the artists and the public.
Once transported to the context of art, video became something alien. I was interested in this fact
of the alienating factor, despite its familiarity otherwise, and the project was conceived and
executed for creating a new audience group for video art in India. I am sure that this project has
created a history in the critical discourse on Indian contemporary video art. ”

While the grand celebration showcases the videos of the twenty-three selected artists by guest
curators, Johny ML, the project curator adds five more artists to the list namely Babu Eshwar
Prasad, Ebenezer Singh, Kiran Caur Brar, K M Madhusudhanan and Nikhil Chopra. The works are based on
the title 'War in the East, War in the West' which will add a final touch to the four-day celebration.

Brief Description of Artists’ Videos Chosen By 5 Guest Curators

1. Curated under Bose Krishnamachari (Works of Amar Kanwar, Anup Mathew Thomas, Chittrovanu
Mazumdar, Kabir Mohanty and Sudarshan Shetty)

Anup Mathew Thomas’ Light Life depicts the empty interiors of Dance Bars in the city of Mumbai. The
work questions the ban on dance bars as many ex-dancers were obliged to seek the very employment the
censure sought to discourage. On the other hand, Sudarshan Shetty’s Six Drops is a fable about the
making of The Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern which is considered a haunted space.

2. Curated under Gayatri Sinha (Works of Gigi Scaria, Manjunath Kamath, N Pushpamala and Surekha) 

Each work by the artists carry a sense of inventiveness, and the absence of singular positions, even
when dealing with seemingly innocuous issues like everyday domesticity.  For example in Surekha’s
Cooking Concepts, the woman views the kitchen as the site for eros, visual consumption and women’s
labour. Here, the mundane act of cooking metamorphoses into an evocative game. The simple act of
mixing and kneading of the dough, in the video, reminds of mountain scapes and various body organs.
Manjunath Kamath’s Talk deals with the issue of fear and desire through a dialogue between two clay
figures. There are two heads seen facing each other and perched on two pedestals. The figures are
just clay lumps in the beginning, reminding the viewer of the mythology of origins. When one of the
figures takes shape into a human head and look at the other, he turns into a lump of clay. This game
is played between them for sometime as if they were trying to outwit each other. While N.
Pushpamala’s Rashtriya Kheer & Desi Salad takes a mimetic and ironic view of the values of nation,
and the imagery of an ideal Indian family. Gigi Scaria’s Panic City on the other hand, comments on
the latest construction fever and the cleaning process by Delhi government due to the upcoming
commonwealth games.

3. Curator under Suresh Jayaram (Works of Ambuja Mahaji, Bharatesh D Yadav, Jehangir Jani, Surekha,
Siridevi Khandavilli and Umesh Maddanahalli)

The videos by these artists address the issue of the politics of the body. For instance is Umesh
Maddanahalli’s Black Towel that records a brief intimate encounter between a brown man and a white
Austrian woman. What begins as an innocent exchange of polite talk quickly turns into casual sex,
which albeit frivolous, portends far darker issues of racial prejudice. The film, spanning roughly
twenty two minutes, attempts to understand perceived notions and widely held beliefs about
immigrants, color, cultural schisms and race. On the other hand Ambuja Magaji’s Body Desire  is a
multi - part video installation of human desire for transformation from male to female. The notion
has been displayed through hijra’s doing make up and usage of repetitive pattern of images,
experimental background sound. Bharatesh D Yadav’s eXtra Large that triggers a celebration of body
is another noteworthy work.  

4. Curated under Arshiya Lokhandwala (Works of Aaditi Joshi, Baptist Coelho, Sharmila Samant and
Sonia Khurana) 

Sonia Khurana’s video Breath, shows the stomach ambiguously as a landscape. The close up of the
cycle of respiration is done to highlights the beauty of body-alive and breathing. This thought is
continued in Sharmila Samant’s video Dilemma, that like Khurana’s work reveals the woman’s belly
allegorically representing the earth. The focus here however, is not only on the belly itself, but
the child that is growing inside. Given the current political unrest in the world, wars and
violence, the mother and child are anxiety–driven, and in a dilemma to consider living in a society
filled with war, hate and fear.  Baptist Coelho adds to the consequences of environment destruction
in the video Something Terrible has Happened that shows an anonymous businessman mechanically
inserting air vent endlessly into a fertile landscape. Aaditi Joshi further highlights these effects
in Plastic where the artist is seen gasping in a plastic bag, an outcome resulting from our own

5. Curated under Nancy Adajania (Works of Mriganka Madhukaillya, Navjot Altaf, Ranbir Kaleka and
Shilpa Gupta)

Navjot Altaf’s Lacuna In Testimony is about attempting to listen to the testimonies and to question
whether one can enumerate and describe these events as they remain opaque when one truly seeks to
understand them. The material incorporated is from the footage and stills (shot by the artist),
recorded interviews (by the artist) with the people singled out  in the Ahmedabad riots early last
year (2002) along with archival material, from various sources, concerning similar events from India
and other parts of the world. On the other hand Mriganka Madhukaillya’s Passage throws light on a
detached observer who follows endless exploration. 

Brief Description of Artists’ Videos Chosen by Johny ML

Curated under JohnyML (Works of Babu Eshwar Prasad, Ebenezer Singh, Kiran Caur Brar, K M
Madhusudhanan and Nikhil Chopra)

Ebenezer Singh’s Narashimha Avatar is work that transforms the queries of war and contemporary life
in to a theatrical language. The mythical story of the slaying of the demon king hiranyakaship by
vishnu is the key behind the work. On the other hand, Babu Eshwar Prasad’s Vortex is a journey into
a landscape of industry where one walks through the debris of a mechanical world that has become
obsolete. While Kiran Kaur Brar’s Firecracker engages the viewer through the beauty and violence of
firecrackers explosion, KM Madhusudhanan’s Razor Blood is an interesting story of a revenge that
exists only in dreams and memories. Another interesting presentation is by Nikhil Chopra who works
at the boundaries between theatre, performance, live art, painting, photography and sculpture.
Chopra’s most recent character, Yog Raj Chitrakar, is loosely based on the artist’s grandfather, Yog
Raj Chopra. The character has many faces: explorer, draughtsman, cartographer, conqueror, soldier,
prisoner of war, painter, artist, romantic, dandy and queen. These are signified by the elaborate
costumes, which are changed throughout performances to indicate the character’s transformation.

Most certainly, this is an art experience that is bound to take Video Art to a new all-time high!

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