A Close Encounter with the Predictable
'Not only is the individual's identity formed/expressed in production but the collectivity, social relations, are also determined through the mode of production. Production must not be considered simply as being the reproduction of the physical existence of the individuals. Rather it is a definite form ... of expressing their life. As individual express their life so they are.' –Karl Marx, German Ideology
Symptoms of Anti-Eurocentric artistic articulation, from a 'traditional' Bengali position, are mostly produced and programmed to become 'Othered” by the West or the centers to condition certain cultural merchandise from the periphery, for the consumption by the centers.
Since mid 1980s strange tribes of Bengali artists formulated idioms of withered Ethnocentrism –informed by a fictitious and revisionist 'identity politics'– showcasing fantastic “lokoj” traditions that freeze Bengali cultures to support specific meanings and essentialist models of subjectivity.
While unashamedly feeding the centers' need for the exotic, the 'rooted' and the “lokoj”, Nasima Haque Mitu's market-ready, ethnocentric “sculptures”– modeled on the idea of conceptual art that appropriate the demands of the function, production relations and utility, translating directly into build forms – stages, and questions, how fields of arts define themselves in and through disciplines and the disciplines and methods appropriated; threatening both objecthood and functionality. Her works 'Crops Implement', 'Horizontal', 'Vertical -3' etc even internalize the interesting concern embedded in the practices and mechanism whereby utility is engendered, and suppressed, and the essence is constructed, categorized and domesticated.
Mitu's works stand out in gallery space creating a dialogue with (femininely gendered) body and body's relation with labour and also recall a brand of feminine sculpture with a tradition that takes in Meret Oppenheim, Eva Hesse, Barbara Bloom and Louise Bourgeois, and one which translates a peculiar relation with the object in a way only a women can –manual, effective, close and unabstract. At the same time, her tame, hackneyed, oversized farming utensils, the precisely overlaid 'With Eggs' and 'Relation' broach – while maintaining a strong need to form and resemble the 'ontic' – as a viaticum in a typical Dhakaite commercial venture that dwells on the play of composition within each piece and externalizes a quality of both the 'timeless' and the 'mundane', and suggest an anonymous decor with reassuring craft-like and pretentious familiarity of patterns while administering a canny patina of ethnic brand of Orientalism.
In the first instance, the theatrum mundi with which Mitu regale her viewers is one that elicits trust, with a familiar – yet exotic–feel as if comprised of a heterogeneous compilation of stage props for an unknown Selim Al Deen play: each sculpture is an alteration of form/figure from all conceivable sources: folklore, low culture, art history, vocabulary created by Indian and Far-Eastern artists, brought to life by the power of the desire of the lumpen-proletariat and petit-bourgeois–who stuck it rich after the mid 1980's– in order to be connected with an imaginary past or tradition to reinforce their pogrom and plundering.
Mitu's work evoke both the elevated and the everyday; the works draw on social life, authorial anonymity, and on seeming inevitability of public art turning spectators into voyeurs witnessing the relation of re-shuffling and displacement of labor and labor-generating bodies–utensils are, of course, extensions of the body–while Mitu's sculptures themselves are converted into vehicles that are isolated and autonomous entities that skirt positive iconographic reference. The result is a set of objects that reside somewhere between figuration and zero-degree, pre-geometric forms and volume.
The interplay of forms and the conceptual element of cognitive relations state their ambiguity – where story and material persist in flinching mutual evidence, bilaterally afraid of the other's saturation and contamination –between the feudal-organic and the industrial worlds; even staging of Mitu's sculptures betrays a tired re-articulation-ethics-and-values independent of “real” nature and contexts that face us with a brand of “sculptural-sculpture” representing only a noumenon, an affirmation of market economics, uprooted desires and confusion.
In their manufactured, plastic iconicity, Mitu's “sculptures” reify and ricochet the no-time of TV soaps which impose a dramatic structure through the vocabulary of a tired and tested formula; Mitu's pieces, in the end, appear as the magnified ordinary supermarket objects d'art– product of a depersonalized process, not the handicraft of traditional art but the disjunctive process of mass production.
This exhibition was held at Gallery Chitrak, December 25-31, 2009.