Rahman's norm-defying,gravity-free freights
Artist A Rahman lent his efforts to showcase both the spectacular and the specular encountered by an individual eking out a life in the contemporary world, in his recent exhibition entitled The Gravity-free World. An expatriate artist living in Italy since the late 90s, Rahman takes recourse, after a lull of about seven years, to a mode of expression rooted in an ambit that encompasses both the figurative and the abstract.
Under curator Mustafa Zaman's steermanship, the artworks – consisting of mixed media, intaglio and digital prints – evolved into an archaeological site for the emergence of ever new forms of resistance wont to defy the 'auspices' of power, arising, per se, out of the changing locus of agency in a four-dimensional order.
Taking cue from the curatorial note, it could be surmised that Rahman's strategy celebrates Einstein's notion of the gravity which is the result of energy-mass duet, one which veers off from Newton's observation of natural law that posits that objects and their energy are essentially different from one another.
This is congruent with the multidimensionality of the space-time curvature. Rahman's works give flesh to the idea of ceaseless dislocation of space-time loci in its relationship with the human subject, thus, validating the title Gravity-free World, rendered in an open-ended framework.
In the last thirteen years Rahman has bagged eleven exhibitions to his credit. Gravity-free World has brought forth works that can be distinguished from the rest of his oeuvres, in this regard, works like Gravity Unlearned and Psychedelic Noise-Notes merit mention. The works of these series share some common features. The digital prints, compassing scenes from different cities caught in reflection on an industrial mirror, give rise to a new formal language as the dark (labyrinthine) circle at the centre of these images work to moor the gravity 'freeness' by engraving it with 'weight' and 'depth'. The cast and crew of these digital prints comprise distorted images of a labyrinthine city where spaces remain fluid and inhabitants are caught in a ceaseless flux. Alongside are some recognizable low-life accouterments confronted by pedestrians, such as unidentifiable goods tied with ropes occupying public spaces, apartment houses as ubiquitous symbol of urbanization, rickshaw wheels in conscious mimesis of the form of the circle. These wrought juxtapositions seemingly inscribe an 'anarchic alliance' between spontaneity and 'undisciplined anger'.
These works inhabit a space beyond morality; they supersede the bounds of existing framework of values. They, on the other hand, become a medium to project an interplay between social structure and ideas engendering artistic creation. Hence, from this perspective, Rahman's gravity-free world appears not to be grounded in any abstract ideology, but rather in the artist's societal-cultural position, or in other words, in his lived experience. In spite of the apparent metaphysical overture, the aforementioned works serve as indicators of a striated reality which need to be examined through the lens of the Deleuzian concept of space. Deleuze writes, '“inside” space is topologically in contact with the “outside” space… and brings the two into confrontation at the limit of the living present (Gilles Deleuze, Foucault.
University of Minnesota Press, 2000 p. 118-19). Rahman aligns the two worlds without ever being aware of it, and as a consequence, goes on to create a spontaneous or a somewhat codified response to reality.
Thus, his life as an hyperkinetic performer, one whose faith unabashedly lies in overproduction, mirrors reality as a many-layered riddle, or, in cotemporary parlance, a hypertext.
This is why the 'subjects' that inhabit Rahman's work are seen perennially milling in a 'sur'-real maze. This conundrum of a 'reality' breaks down all formal boundaries between exoteric and esoteric. This very condition transforms the existential reality with its material paraphernalia governed by the force of gravity into an un-gravitating, absurd world that takes for its pivot the curvature-based logic of mathematics. Therefore, modernist empiricism predicated on the laws of causality fails to justify Rahman's gravity-free world, whose 'truth procedure', to echo Alain Badiou, may reveal:' "inaesthetics" rather than art; metapolitics rather than politics; ontology rather than science.'
Alongside Rahman's Gravity Unlearned, Psychedelic Noise Notes, works included in other series like On an Undefined Plateau, AuNatural, Gravity-free show the recurrence of the leitmotif of the central cavity, the 'hollow'. This motif yields, perhaps, to inverted hermeneutics that turns simple procedure of making meanings on its head. However, this motif also plays a formalist role in Rahman's work in the sense that it lends a 'contour' to the plain surface of the composition. However, this motif also rises above its symbolic function by becoming an instrument in conceptualizing the artwork. For the same reason, this 'hollow' is more akin to a visual metaphor allegory of the psychological 'horror' that haunts every man, on the move. Using the motif both as form and content underpins an effort to create a distinctive idiom..
The works: 6, 15, 16 of the Geometrics series remain at odds with the theme of the exhibition. Whereas the other works take for their premise the investigation of the self-orther dyad, or perhaps, only the othered self in its state of subjugation to the post-industrial capital order, examined through the prism of the absurd laws of curvature-based spaciotemporality posited by quantum physics, the works under the Geometrics series remain straitjacketed in their reductive formalist diction.
Despite all, the exhibit's strength lies in its capacity to bring to view the ontology of the self constrained under corporeal/physical labour and subject to the new world order.
Rahman's ‘Gravity-free World’ ran its course from January 18 to February 8, 2014, at Bengal Gallery of Fine Arts.