An armoury of deconstructive visuals
Razib Datta’s Digital Montages
When image creation and image collapsing is made interchangeable what becomes of the end result – the artwork that we are allowed to look at and except as the finally found aesthetic solution by the artist? To understand the work of Razib Datta one needs to take into account such a paradoxical process where construction and deconstruction are simultaneously at work, and as stratagems, they are equally weighed.
Appropriation being his starting point, Razib appears as a discerning scavenger, carefully choosing images from the vast horizon of open sources – the web, the zines and even the art history books. With minimal maneuvering Razib inserts an extraneous element into the existing image, be that of Rabindranath Tegore captured in his full glory, or historically important photos of Bangladesh’s liberation war as well as that of the global conflicts raging in decisive oil and mineral rich areas of the world.
Razib assimilates the two seemingly separate worlds – one that of that of the man-made conflicts and human crises, and the other of the ‘aesthetics of surfaces and quantities’ in relation to mass production -- represented by mannequins, chickens in enclosures and piled up fishes on sale. As he rummages through news photographs with references to war, death and desolation, he also playfully brings into view the latter sorts, perhaps, to refer to the ‘overproduction’ and the banality and boredom that accompany it. What this thirty-plus artist does to the selected images, and in particular to the photographs showing iconic figures, can be dubbed as an infringement of the iconicity they expresses as well as re-narrativizing the narrative that underlines the existing array of social-historical images.
Yet, what may look like a dislodging of iconicity or historical narrative at first sight, as is clearly perceived in his Rabindranath series, is actually a playful, trickster-like intervention, one which leave both creator and observers thinking and ruminating with the tongue comfortably placed in cheek. The embedded meaning is superimposed with another layer of meaning – thus Razib, in recasting the already cast die, sets in motion an interpretive process of deconstruction which leads to a positive outcome – a reevaluation of all established personalities and narratives.
Spectacles have the capacity to hypnotize. The relay of images showing devastations of war often paralyzes our senses. Perhaps it is to re-inject a sense of placement of the self or selves amidst the ennervating chaos of globalized Capital that Razib overlaps the marketplace with the war zones – the two spaces where Capital invades with similar vengeance.
Achille Mbembe, in Aesthetics of Superfluity, asserts that superfluity alludes to ‘the expendability of labour and life.’ Taking our cue from his comment we may say that what bleeds underneath the regimented order(s) of modern life is the individual’s soul which is left in the lurch as he/she has been made to fall from the relational web and was installed within the matrix of superfluity; one is in need of continuous reexamination of one’s position.
Asger Carlson, the US photographer, once declared in an interview that ‘quality is not important, or I could say the unimportant quality becomes important.’ Looking at Razib’s montages, one realizes that he too has little to worry about digitally achievable finesse – he lets the blurred images speak in their own terms, making the encounters de-aestheticized. The contrasting elements and their colours – often blood-red – as in the series where he places a comb on each given image – render the evidentiary image picturesque; though, they also negate the established aesthetic mode used in historicizing by asserting their presence.
Razib’s recent leap to popularity has to do with his interactions on the social media – where his posts, dispersed across a gamut of interests across history, war and aesthetics, expressed in his writings and images, provide the basis for reorganizing our thoughts about art and exhibition making.
- DEPART DESK