Documenta: Indian video essay a hit

15th June 2007, Comments 0 comments

15 June 2007, Kassel, Germany (dpa) - One of the first visitors was worried that Amar Kanwar's eight-screen video installation at the Documenta art show was broken, but the New Delhi film maker assured her that seven of the projection screens were meant to be blank part of the time. "It moves back and forth from eight screens to just one," he said, explaining why some of the stories peter out and vanish for viewers in the darkened room of the museum in the German city of Kassel. "In a sense, it's like life

15 June 2007

Kassel, Germany (dpa) - One of the first visitors was worried that Amar Kanwar's eight-screen video installation at the Documenta art show was broken, but the New Delhi film maker assured her that seven of the projection screens were meant to be blank part of the time.

"It moves back and forth from eight screens to just one," he said, explaining why some of the stories peter out and vanish for viewers in the darkened room of the museum in the German city of Kassel.

"In a sense, it's like life. Things seem to be connected, and then to be disparate," he said. The stories in the work, The Lightning Testimonies, interweave abstraction, poetry, fiction and theatre.

At that moment, the only movie on view was of a stage performance by a self-assured middle-aged woman, but soon other screens would light up with images of a blue window as a "container" of time or of leaves bearing witness to the memory of past violence.

"That is what life is about," explained Kanwar, 42, who is part of a strong Indian presence at one of the world's greatest shows of contemporary art. Documenta, held every five years, has this time selected 113 artists worldwide to show where art is going today.

Kanwar said he was invited a year and a half ago to exhibit for his second time at Documenta and chose The Lightning Testimonies, a work that had already been under development since late in 2004.

But it had been a last-minute scramble in Kassel to adjust all the eight channels, helped by a German technical team.

Kanwar was set to end his week in Kassel on Saturday, the day Documenta opens to the public for a 100-day run roughly in parallel with the summer's other top European art show, the Venice Biennale.

He said he would not need to return as technicians will dismantle the rented projectors and screens, leaving only his digital files.

In an interview, he noted that the current Documenta has less video work on display than that five years ago, but said this "narrowing down" was part of the evolution of the new art form.

Curators were looking for "more meaningful video installations," he said, adding, "It is a form that expands and contracts."

Demand for his video essays in his homeland has never been high, with art collectors currently more interested in paintings and sculptures instead, but Kanwar says his films are available online and on DVD and he sometimes shows work in rural villages.

"It is essential for my work to travel," he said. His narratives have also been exhibited at the Norwegian Museum in Oslo, the Sydney Biennale in Australia and the Stedjelik Museum in the Dutch capital, Amsterdam.

Sheela Gowda is an Indian artist whose space-claiming work at Documenta is hard to miss.

Her updated 1998 installation, And Tell Him of My Pain, fills a large white room in the Fridericianum museum. She composed it of 170 metres of thick, encrusted red cords that hang from the walls and lie on the floor, suggesting umbilical cords.

The Bangalore-based feminist artist's newest installation, Collateral, is about destruction.

It comprises eight horizontal panels of moulded ash, filling a 10-metre-diameter circular room which was specially built for it in the atrium of the Neue Galerie museum, another of the Documenta venues.

Just along the corridor are politically charged collages by the Kerala-born artist CK Rajan, who now lives in Hyderabad.

Created in the 1990s out of clippings from mass-circulation Indian newspapers and magazines, they also deal with the disruptions caused by the rapid expansion of Indian cities and the nation's economy.

Documenta's feminist curator Ruth Noack has put a focus this year on art dealing with the dangers of globalization of the world economy while her husband, artistic director Roger Buergel, has voiced a particular interest in secret writing and codes within art.

The Mumbai-based artist Atul Dodiya is showing Antler Anthology, a set of 12 very large watercolours overlaid with text of Gujerati poetry which is likely to remain a tantalizing mystery to most of the 650,000 Documenta visitors who cannot read Gujerati script.

DPA

Subject: German news

0 Comments To This Article