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Incubating art

  • Collective memory on the lived experience of being in Kathmandu city
- Kurchi Dasgupta
Kapil Mani Dixit’s set of 13 plaster of paris blocks came together as a composite that explored the notion of hollowness. Called ‘Hollow’ or ‘Khokro’, the slabs comprise plaster of paris that has been so set as to contain numerous spherical voids

Jul 2, 2017-Gallery MCube has been hosting art residencies for quite a few years now. On June 23, they opened their doors to the public for a viewing of artworks created during their seventh season. It felt refreshing to see works by Nepal’s Jupiter Pradhan and Kapil Mani Dixit alongside those of Taiwan’s CC Chang and Chen Siao. The result of a two month-long programme during which the artists not only interacted with each other but also visited artists’ studios (including those of the foremost names in the traditional and contemporary art), the Kathmandu University and various art workshops, the exhibition collectively commented on the lived experience of being in Kathmandu city.

CC Chang’s set of eight murals created across various locations in Chyasal, Patan was represented through a map, a poem and one mural replicated on the gallery wall. Called ‘What Makes You Keep Moving Forward’, it is ‘constituted of image collages of rubbings from the well-known local woodcarving crafts, decorative temples and traditional Newar architecture’ says Chang.  Apparently, his focus is ‘on human’s will of “moving forward” in both physical and spiritual ways’ after the earthquakes. His concern is the rapid pace of modernisation that must necessarily follow in the wake of such disasters, and the lack of direction and hope that people must inevitably suffer from. Visually he has drawn inspiration from the chariot festivals of Taiwan and Nepal, as well as the everyday lives of local people of Patan. The pieces are painted across unexpected shop walls, public seats, closed doors and interestingly, are interconnected through bodily gestures because ‘following the direction indicated by these murals, the viewers will realise that it’s a circle, like a “mandala”, in which there’s neither start nor end.’

Kapil Mani Dixit’s set of 13 plaster of paris blocks came together as a composite that explored the notion of hollowness. Called ‘Hollow’ or ‘Khokro’, the slabs comprise plaster of paris that has been so set as to contain numerous spherical voids. Sometimes resembling broken, prehistoric egg shells and bodily organs, sometimes just hollowed out cubes or residual imprints, the work succeeds because of the endless nuances and resonances it yields while visually playing with the core notion. It exuded a certain timeless appeal and drew one in, despite the simplistic idea and execution. Dixit specified that ‘Hollow’ was a metaphor for all the pain and emptiness that people who leave their homes to work in faraway countries must leave behind in the hearts of friends, family and the community. It also touches upon the physical loss inflicted by the earthquakes on Nepal’s architectural heritage.

Nearby, Jupiter Pradhan delivered quite a punch with his two works—a game board and an installation. ‘The Maze’ was an interactive piece that allowed viewers to move three golden pigs via remote control on a massive, pinball maze while negotiating stationery pigs on way. In the artist’s words, it mirrors contemporary society and is a reflection on the many socio-political and cultural restrictions that one has to put up with everyday. It also comments on the  absolute impunity enjoyed by those in power. The same theme of power and repression played out in ‘The Lunch’, which was an exquisite installation comprising a silver-coated sculpture of a newborn child served on a table perfectly set for lunch, including cutlery and plates. Three pairs of daintily placed plaster of paris hands looked ready to start on the meal while dozens of grasping hands sprung from the surrounding grass on the ground, eager to join in. An inscription lay half-buried in the ground nearby, bearing a text that read ‘the voices raised against the neo civilisation will cruelly be squeezed and their identity will be scattered in the name of so-called civilisation, socio-cultural values and religion’ and a poem evoking similar sentiments. Here goes an extract: 

“The Da Vincis will carry on 

preparing for the last supper

And Picasso will born again

The Guernica will be recreated

But all this will happen in an imaginary folk tale

Because this time the dark caves of Ajanta

Will be turned into the ruins of Nagasaki and Hiroshima

And even the foetus of Da Vincis and Picasso will be slaughtered.”

The show included a performance by Taiwan’s Chen Siao, who wove it around the installation he had created during the residency. ‘Those Messages from Yamaraja’ bore witness to Chen Siao’s preoccupation with death. As an installation it documented the written down responses from random passersby to the question ‘If you were Yamaraja, the Lord of Death, what kind of death-related messages would you deliver to people?’ The collected texts were displayed at one corner of the gallery and during the performance Chen Siao proceeded to disrobe himself and cover his own body with the paper sheets. He had tied a length of rope across his mouth, effectively blotting out the possibility of speech but the recording of a poem he had co-written with Maheshwor using phrases from the responses played in the background.  He himself repeatedly on his fingers with the point of a knife and drew blood, which he wiped on a sheet of paper. Once the last sheet was attached to his skin, he walked out of the gallery and along the streets to the nearby Bagmati river, and waded in for a dip. The performance was charged with energy, and was interesting no doubt, but seemed to tread a familiar path in terms of using the body as a metaphor. 

It was an interesting and intense exhibition. It is good to see Gallery MCube do so well as an incubator and I look forward to witnessing more from them in future.

Published: 02-07-2017 09:35

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