Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called ‘The Pledge’. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course... it probably isn't. The second act is called ‘The Turn’. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you're looking for the secret... but you won't find it, because of course you're not really looking. You don't really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn't clap yet. Because making something disappear isn't enough; you have to bring it back. That's why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call ‘The Prestige.'
A disappearance, by virtue of its negative ‘dis,’ implies a prior existence, and then an active process of erasure. Such is the cycle of all things perishable: birth, existence, decay and finally ah—yes—a disappearance. A disappearance is not equivalent to a death—it is simply a seizure, an erasure, a re-creation.
The idea of ‘making things disappear’ began when, on one of the first days at The Bengaluru Artist Residency, we discussed the presence and absence of art spaces in the city. The topic drifted to vanishing old spaces, to the eruption of new spaces and the recreation of present spaces. The spell of the occult overwhelmed our conversation and we pondered ways of vanishing. The oldest trick, of course, is magic. We called several ‘magicians’ in Bangalore, who said they charged a mere 50 Lakh of rupees to make a space disappear. But how? We asked. It’s the perfect illusion, they said.
Then we found ourselves roaming scrap yards as Bhuvana found inspiration in the twisted, rusted iron structures of previously luminous, shiny objects. We found ourselves buying rolls of pink bubble wrap to, rather than cover, create anew. We found ourselves trudging through little hamlets of peeling walls, where the whitewash playfully revealed and concealed layers of time, color and taste. The act of erasure was already becoming an omnipresent theme.
At the first salon, Siddharth created the head of a parrot (inspired by the tota-wallas that adorn our neighborhood) and after several incarnations, the head remained fragmented from any possible body. Flowers, an emblem of Bangalore, lined the walls of my room, and as they decayed, the space and its meaning transformed. Ideas appeared and disappeared: conjecture, write, sketch, scratch, crush, chuck, re-create.
Disappearing and appearing are in themselves elements of time. The use of time in Bhuvana, Siddharth and my own work is significant. The process as well as the larger theme of time and its disjuncture remains at the core of each of our works; the end product, however is varyingly serious and comic.
We actively utilized time, scale, color and weight to re-create and transform that which existed in our psychological and topographical environments: thus in the process of disappearance is a new appearance; this is the magician’s prestige. Bhuvana, in carving (then sand-papering) an old, worn car in 2010, supported by Marinetti’s quote from the Futurist manifesto of the 60’s, comments on the timelessness of the concept of a decaying society. The panels and prints themselves appear fragmented within the architecture of the space: the mind must actively reconsider the original form of the ‘rushing car.’
Siddharth’s living sculpture, “Rococo,” playfully subverts that late Baroque era as he adorns a Victorian gown in bubble wrap. He finds bright, plastic materials that assume new shapes and forms, disassociating from their obvious uses. A light bulb is a head, a wire is a feather. The objects are distorted, quirky, and colorful. Though they appear heavy, they are literally as light as foam, and seem to reflect an emptiness. The objects began from whim, then transformed into a kind of un-shapely storybook: a comic book of the everyday happenings of some other, quotidian universe.
The book that I wove together—a combination of old photographs and sonnets—evokes a time past, a future nostalgia and the disequilibrium of being ‘tipped’ out of time and out of scale.
And so was the invite for the show formed; bridging the contemporary aesthetic of pixelization (a simultaneous heightening and erasure of an image) and the empty wigs of the late Baroque era—inspired by the site (a very European bungalow-turned-gallery named ‘Rococo’).
Thus is the process of disappearance. Thus is the process of waking up and going to sleep, or cooking and eating, of viewing and forgetting, or making and erasing. We were, we are, we will be—we live the paradox of infinite identity, in an infinite loop. We are an interval. The same wand that introduces the object and makes it vanish, also re-invents it. It’s the perfect illusion.
-- Himali Singh Soin
(All images courtesy of the Bangaluru Arts Residency and the artists.)