Salma Abedin Prithi's Dry Run
Poetic inflection in the alienation of object and seeing
Purely actual objects do not exist. Every actual surrounds itself with a cloud of virtual images. This cloud is composed of a series of more or less extensive coexisting circuits, along which the virtual images are distributed, and around which they run.
– Dialogues II, Gilles Deleuze and Claire Parnet, trans. Eliot Ross Albert, Continuum, London-New York, 2007, p.112
Dry Run highlighted the relationship between the actual and the virtual in an art exhibition that saw Salma Abedin Prithi broach a thematically engaging show wavering between the periphery and the mainstream. Curated by Wakilur Rahman and Kehkasha Sabah, the exhibition was cast around the artist’s recent photographic forays wherein readymades,video works and sketches attempted to make 'sense' of presentational norms in a multidisciplinary mode.
The curatorial note underlined a feminist subtext. It highlighted 'the perspective of a woman's life,' which fell short of interpreting the potential of the exploding and imploding imageries that the artist brought to the fore in her first ever solo exhibition. A photographer who already made inroads into the art scene reappears in the mainstream artistic circuit with works that defy the law of genres and disciplines Looking at the works of this exhibition closely, what appeared besides the poetic infusion was an eerie presence of brutality and violence.The artist, however, remained distant from the brutality and violence she gave voice to. The cues, therefore, remained non-objective and one became aware that they sprang out of this postindustrial, neoliberal world order. The state of the world may not be her primary concern, but in Prithi's carefully crafted exhibition it had a conspicuous presence.
Prithi presented a series of photographs along with texts entitled Dear Love – a series that is assertive of gendered subjectivity. The photographs were playful, no doubt, but their photogenic quality somewhat downplayed the mission – to remove the veil of prejudice that often blurs our vision.
We can easily avoid the artist’s statement in which Prithi confessed that her presentation unfolded 'the method of a work that is deeply personal.' Since reading is an intertextual process that tends to extend or even subvert the author's articulation, which is often an imposition on what is legible, the artist's claim to subjectivity implies a kind of alienation between art and artist. Perhaps the artist and the curators are entrapped in the labyrinth of intended meaning.
Contrarily, the framework of the exhibition seemed rather elastic, and also paradoxical in its use of mediums and subtextual readings they offered. A spectator may respond to the gap between meaing-making and art-making, going against current trends, overwriting what was traditionally 'modern' in the art scene, and thus bringing into the fold this fact that it is an art scene where photography still occupies an ambivalent place. That there exists some sort of antagonism between art and photography is something that can easily be used to the advantage of an artist who has distanced herself from the documentary genre to create an altogether different niche for herself. So, between the art and the way art is interpreted lies a no-man's land which is an invitation to reinterpretation. In spite of this problem, the exhibition had its vitality for it grasped the potentiality of multidisciplinarity in a single frame of presentation.
Some of her photos and videos show us, for example, skinned chicken as a metaphor for the violence that war wreaks upon us in the late-capital era. The predicament she addressed in a non-confrontational yet poetically imbued language is a result of the violence caused by neoliberal propaganda we witness everywhere across the world.
But it is necessary to assert here, for the sake of an overview of this exhibition, that Prithi attains a distantiality by which she makes a detour from the apparent. This interiorized distantiality stimulates the creative process and because of this, spectators can experience a solitude quite unusual for this late capital-era. The distantiality and solitude create a poetic essence in some of her works. For example, under the title of Installation at Kalakendra, some pieces showed palpable traces of the vital quality of poetic images.
In the installation, a human figure outlined by a red costume is seen on a mobile phone placed in front of an uncovered red square box that held a pile of wet cotton balls/camphor. This elaborate work reflected a metaphor for a minimalist box theatre without its essential audience. The piece generates a poetic dimension through a focal point of loneliness in this virtually arrested world without any centre and/or any periphery. Another instance of Prithi's vigorous sensibility was an installation styled as photography, calledGloomy Sunday, where a red fly covered a snake, thus transforming the mundane into mystery or art.
The exhibition entitled ‘Dry Run’ was held in Kalakendra from August 12 to August 30, 2016.