The elephant in the dark
Devi Art Foundation presents The Elephant in the Dark curated by Amirali Ghasemi from 25th January to 30th May 2012, which brings together works of fifty-two contemporary Iranian artists from the Lekha and Anupam Poddar Collection.
An elephant was put in a dark house for display. Crowds of people were asked to identify the object in the dark place by inspection. Each visitor felt with his palm a different part of the animal's body, and thus described the animal's physical reality differently.
The palm of one fell on the trunk. 'This creature is like a water-spout,' he said. The hand of another lighted on the elephant's ear. To him the beat was evidently like a fan. Another rubbed against its leg. 'I found the elephant's shape is like a pillar,' he said. Another laid his hand on its back. 'Certainly this elephant was like a throne,' he said. The sensual eye is just like the palm of the hand. The palm has not the means of covering the whole of the truth.
The exhibition borrows its title from a poem by Rumi, which was inspired by an ancient story of The Elephant and the Blind. The poet cleverly changes the dramatic state of blindness into darkness which has a cure, while the poem illustrates how complex it is to evaluate an event, situation or an object by seeing it from a particular angle and not as a whole. It underlines the incapability of human beings to understand various realities (physical and metaphysical), without using all senses and various means of understanding. Taking Rumi's poetic tale as a point of departure, the exhibition attempts to display both formal and conceptual practices that Iranian artists have adopted over the past decade, both inside and outside the country, to express their concerns. The vast selection of works in the collection provides a unique opportunity to present a comprehensive narrative of the social and artistic developments that are taking shape among the artists.
This diverse and vibrant collection is explored through two parallel streams, which displays the works of internationally known artists and a selection of upcoming young artists. The exhibition is divided into three sections: in "Departure from Form", the traditional form is re-contextualized and used for contemporary critical expressions. "Reflection of a Complex Society" questions social issues such as gender representation, a recurring trend in contemporary Iranian art. Finally, "The Politicized Scenery" showcases works that touch upon various conflicts ranging from the battle for oil in the Middle East to moments in Iranian political history with a keen eye on the current events in the last three years. The Elephant in the Dark is an effort to investigate different contours of Iranian polity and society through contemporary modes of artistic enquires.