Daagi (a convict) unchained…
Daagi Art Garage's exhibition Weapon Can't Kill ! is symptomatic of a strain, a snatch of an orchestrated riff that echoes off a familiar soundboard resonating across the globe, never out of tune and composed with an acute (perhaps, subliminal) awareness of the contemporary charters of art.
The title, a play on meaning/signification that turns on its head a dangerous object rendering it playfully innocuous, is a ploy to raise eyebrows, pique curiosities, less tongue-in-cheek, as it lacks the irony or the wit – ostensibly evident in the exhibits in view – that makes a casual attempt at dislocating a visual trope from its time honored valence/ semantic matrix. Which also leads one to the ampersand, the exclamation '!', as a further twist more in the way of consolidating the presumptive disclaimer that guns are instruments of destruction in an age where its ubiquitous presence pulsates with an oracular power dictating the structure of dominance and control. One expects a creative display of im/plausible variations in the visual/textual representation of guns, in an effort to validate the claim, which, however, has been clearly left unexplored or perhaps, distantly/obliquely addressed and brought to bear by a sumptuous lack of thematic correlation. Which seen in a context where 'diversity in unity' seems to be the thread bringing together disparate artistic expressions spanning/coursing across a cohesive and predictable landscape of mediums, both serve and dis-serve a lackadaisical sense of 'individuation'. The works are made to feel more like pieces of a puzzle that were never meant to fall in places to complete or illustrate any one idea. Individual entities unto themselves, each piece, seems to stand in light of a logic, well-worn, somewhat identifiable, manufactured on the plane of post-Fordism, replicating a prototype that remains as unattainable as Benjamin's lost aura. That is not to dismiss their functions as objects of art couched in a political narrative, albeit one that buries the 'local' dynamics under a patchwork quilt of global/universal 'signs' and spectacles.
The grounds of Pathshala with its winding corridors, dark room, a narrow iron staircase hauling one up to the rooftop, lent the exhibit an air of intrigue, as one follows the arrows in anticipation of a 'surprise' that might lurk in the rooms hidden from sight and lurch at one with the force of an epiphany, remains an expectation unmet. Daagi Art Garage is a collective of young artists, which tried its luck for the first time in the playground of art praxis. These works are still heavily accented with the language of the academy, and displays the inevitable constraints of trained imagination.
As one enters the premises, a well-lit room invites the audience inside to the presence of structured installations of wood and metal testifying to a sense of balance and visual perspective. The wooden architectural projections by Syed Tareq Rahman are reflective more of a mental mapping, somewhat algorithmic and hence inorganic, a physical demonstration of an internal 'check and balance' that stunted its contours within the scope of a predictable growth. The metal/wood installation graced as it is with a conscious aesthetic scheme is an intricate piece that mirrors a vertical rise; with jagged and striated outcroppings, it resembles a sharper version of a comic strip space station, visually pleasing and something that does very little to unsettle one's expectations.
Sanjid Mahmud's drawings, mostly in blue ink, appear preternaturally surrealist (yet without the irony of contradiction/ paradox), human bodies are contorted into melding with animal forms, touching lightly on the erotic is seen a theater of the 'muted' grotesque that reminds one of Goya's world of satiric horror minus its poignant urgency. On one corner is a glass rack holding vials of the artist's hair and nail clippings, where the embodiment of existence has been stripped to an objectified assemblage, the whole dispersed into dispensable parts. A written text quoting a part of Jibanananda's verse laments the banishment of nature from a dystopic urban living. Juxtaposed in adjacent, symbiotic spaces these two works complement each other in aspiring for a common meaning, life/growth giving way to 'control'.
Rupam's showcasing of bric-a-bracs in a banal setting in the manner of a nod to the 'pop', of objects strewn across 'everyday', now valourized as art strikes a familiar note of a well worn tact. However, Emran Sohel transformed the darkroom into a labyrinth of display illuminated with a red glow that comes from overhead lights switched on by one's contact with a chair below. Styled to draw one's attention to the formulaic manner of representing terror/ fear with props of destruction and texts emulating chemical formulas that our era of institutionalized war conditioned us to read in a certain way, with caution and a smattering of distrust is visually interesting.
Rasel Chowdhury's minimalist gig, turned to the Pathshala library to bring into view miniature models of weapons floating inside small jars, remaining thus faithful to the title of the show, was an attempt to diminish the articulated power of weapons by placing them between books like specimens from the lab, fragile, threatened and in need for preservation. Sanad Biswas presented his signature inflated polythene bags crowded/horded up in a class room and jostling for room amidst chairs that lay empty or sometimes offering themselves up to the audience as they watch the video projected on conjoint walls, slanted, making the flow of intermingling colours quite staid as they trickle down and bleed into each other in their nonchalant commute. It seemed art was made conducive to the space it occupied (not inhabited), whereas any attempt to potentiate creative engagement with spatiality remained at large. Dhiman Sarkar created a curious space insinuating a disruption of formalized social encounter as chairs are arranged with their backs facing each other around a display of apparently mislaid plates on a table and one chair suspended midair. One thing was clearly established, that the centre did not hold, that too as a conscious cognitive effort which however seemed to be the only torque to spur the action, however 'in stall' that might appear!
Weapon Can’t Kill! ran from 3rd February to 10th February, 2016 at Pathshala South Asian Media Institute.