Like it or not, our lives are enmeshed in the intersecting lines of a Grid in the worlds both real and virtual. As we traverse our gridlocked streets, using maps to orient ourselves, as we whiz past construction sites with their pillars and girders, as we slave away in modular offices or as we navigate the World Wide Web, we constantly reference the Grid.
The title of the show “Living off the Grid” is as multilayered and ambivalent as its content. Does it indicate a sustenance as seen in work of several artists or an abstinence – a New Age way of reducing one’s dependence on perhaps the electric grid?
In “The Grid Book” Hannah Higgins talks of ten grids that changed the world: The brick (the brick wall), the tablet, the gridiron city plan, the map, musical notation, the ledger, the screen, moveable type, the manufactured box, and the Net.
In the visual arts the grid was an important form in the early 20th century as it was a measured and orderly structure devoid of randomness, geometrically ordered yet infinitely variable. Its order is predominantly one of repetition but it can still offer multiple perceptual sensations.
The use of the grid to achieve realistic perspectives is reflected not just in Western Europe's Renaissance period but also in the work by Indian miniature painters. However there is a difference between perspective studies and the modernist grid as depicted by artists like Mondrian, Malevich or Sol Lewitt. Perspective is the demonstration of how reality and its representation can be mapped onto each other. However everything about the grid opposes this relationship.
In the hands of artists the grid has bestowed independence from narration and contextuality and enabled progress towards absolute visuality. In that sense the grid has served as a model for the antidevelopmental, the antinarrative and the antihistorical.
The grid has also a bivalent structure and history. It has both a beyond-the-frame and within-the-frame attitude. By virtue of the grid a work of art is presented as a mere fragment, as its basic structure of horizontal and vertical lines is potentially endless. It extends in all directions to infinity.
One can regard the entire virtual world as a grid formed by several networking computers. Digital technology controls analog images by attaching them to a virtual grid.
“Living off the Grid” is an invitation to the fifteen participating artists to explore the grid’s inherent duality/schizophrenic character and think of even breaking out of the grid and moving beyond the frame.
Some artists’ statements on the Grid:
Nataraj Sharma: I have always been fascinated by the logic and definition and clarity of grids. Grids help me organise my thoughts, help me hold endless space in a human grasp. I see the grid as something that exists inside everything, slightly below the surface- as something that keeps and relates everything together- stops experience from scattering and floating away.
Baiju Parthan : As 'rational' beings operating in a structured reality we cannot abolish the grid embedded in our perception. But as an artist my job is to always go beyond, or sublimate the grid. My work for the show is dependent on the grid for its actualization, but its message is the suggestion that real significance (which is intuited) lies actually beyond and away from the grid.
Rohini Devasher: I have always been interested in the building and gradual articulation of form and meaning. In terms of earlier work whether print, video or drawing, the grid seems to appear by virtue of the fact that many hundreds of layers are stacked, sorted, merged, and rearranged to gradually create a form.
Manisha Parekh: I have been making works in ‘series’ for long now. Its feels like being in a vast space when I am playing with a thought or an idea and making variations of till I explore it completely within a work. The work for this show has sense of repetition and rhythm.
Abhishek Hazra: More than the rectilinearity of the grid, I am more interested in the grid as a metaphor for a system - a system of rules or even a theoretical system like Freud or Marx. I am also interested in the cultural history of the grid particularly from a post-colonial context, where the grid then becomes synonymous with modernity.
Raqs Media Collective: We have been acutely interested in the encounter between irregularity and order, between chance and predictability, randomness and determination. This is a thread that runs through a lot of our work. Whether it is an urban masterplan, the lattice of time zones and longitudes, or the vectors of lines of force in the world, we seem to be beset by grids. A lot of our work in Raqs is an off -the-grid attempt to investigate what grids conceal and reveal when they snap into place.