Planes of emergence Interpenetrated
The basically tautological character of the spectacle flows from the simple fact that its means are simultaneously its ends.
–Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle
Digitally-inclined Wakilur Rahman made his initial forays into image generation quite a few years ago placing his bet squarely on twin ethos – self-referentiality and relationality, forces that may seem incompatible at first but are difficult to disentwine as far as the artist's multimedia initiatives are concerned.
Wakil started out as an expositor of consumer images testing the water at the edge of interchangeability of means and end with an extensive survey of a glut of objects/commodities which street vendors enthusiastically amass for public consumption. Restaging these staged spectacles as mainstream fodder, Wakil neither wanted to comment on how we are endlessly assailed by them in 'negation of life' (Guy Debord, 1967), nor aimed to critique the condition created by the forces of the market. Wakil’s engagement with the New Media, through which he evinces the material as theme, has also been a way for him to propose photography as art, which till date, remains an underrated medium in the mainstream.
Few years of unwavering navigation made Wakil a frequenter in the terrain of hyperspace – the web and the social media. Perhaps, this helped ease himself into the places/zones of virtual activities, and made him observe how simulation and even intentional and unintentional displacement of elements in a given image on the web works. He now situates his language between abstraction and the hyperlinked world of the webs and explores how those cosmologies are altering the way we experience imagery as well as actual events in real life.
This logic has recently been made to collide with an interventionist conceit to institute a dialogue between what appears to the eyes as empty signifiers and what one is able to perceive as instruments of 'meaning' by pulling some strings to re-organize the 'signs/lexis' in the realm of the visual. By obstructing, deconstructing and re-coding the given image, Wakil self-consciously makes art by putting the method of censorship in the hyperspace on its head. Each photographic image employs what may first appear as visual censoring devices. Colour bands, rectangular patches, roundish translucent screens placed in strategic places as well as digitally generated fog or pixelation etc, applied in simulation of the widely circulated digital images ( to make it amenable to viewer's discretion) are what he deploys not to hide body parts but to bring into clear view his playful commentary on image consumption in the digital age.
Wakil's solo entitled Censored Image is a culmination of his activities on Facebook where he had been posting works over a year or so under the same title. These images rest between the approximate ideas of substantiation and instantiation. From within this in-between horizon the artist issues forth his current series of digitally manipulated works while remaining alert towards the end results. As such, his borrowed method of arbitrary re-doing of the chosen images by subjecting them to visual censoring devices lends his works a mixed constitution. One senses the presence of uneasiness/discomfiture, humour, parody, irony as well as just plain pluckiness. One realizes that this is the region where the sublime can only be reinstated through the anti-sublime as Wakil adopts the role of a censor who willfully applies strips and colour straps to his images though apparently not a single image has any trace of what one may deem offensive to the public.
If in the cosmology of digital portals one is compelled to apply such masks to remain socially-politically palatable – to purge the object of its morally offensive content, in Wakil's series they are applied with deconstruction in mind. One must overlap that with what Louis Althusser once referred to as 'interpellation' instituted by state power, which Adorno and Hokheimer used in another context to explain media's ability to engineer passive submission. Wakil's cheeky inscriptions of these otherwise mundane images of everyday happenings in public and private and semi-private spaces with sketchy geometric forms and strips only problematize the position of the 'passive subject' vis-à-vis the 'proposed object' – carefully manipulated and at once self-referential and relational.
Taking cues from Derrida, who said 'Iterability alters', by which he meant that every insertion of text in new context creates a ground for new meanings to emerge, what we may get out of Wakil's new exhibition is a double-decked edifice. On one level, it has been made possible through aligning the images with the visual devices for social sanctification, and on another, by re-staging images from the social media into the gallery space, hence connecting the virtual cosmology with the real physical space.
Seen in the context of notions of truth claim, photography's holy grail and the unreliability of images in the digital era, Censored Image comes off as something of a 'heterotopia' where the presence of many different places – both virtual and real – were echoed. To sum up in short the achievement of the exhibition one may conclude that the artist, with his tongue in cheek, has played on the keys and scales of shutter-shock in order to generate shutter-seduction.
The exhibition ran its course from February 3rd to March 3rd, 2015, at Kala Kendra, Dhaka.
Photo Courtesy: Artist