Double Take

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© Courtesy of the Artist and Nature Morte, New Delhi
Double Take

A-1 Neeti Bagh
110049 New Delhi
August 20th, 2015 - October 3rd, 2015

Mon-Sat 10-6


Nature Morte is pleased to present Double Take, a group exhibition curated by Mumbai-based American curator Diana Campbell Betancourt that transforms the gallery into a “fun house” – or an attraction that includes “various devices intended to surprise, frighten, bewilder, or amuse.” It’s a place where reality is malleable and can offer us a completely different view of the world, as in a carnivalesque hall of mirrors. A “double take” is generally defined as a delayed reaction to a surprising or significant situation after an initial failure to notice anything unusual —usually used in the phrase "do a double take,” referenced in cartoons and rap music alike. The curator co-opts the idea of a fun house away from a space of sheer amusement value and into a space that incites the viewer to look more closely and to think more deeply about seeming truths that they might take at surface value. What are the powers, mechanisms, and sleights of hand that affect the way we perceive the world around us? Seventeen artists based in twelve countries consider this question, many exhibiting in India for the first time with works on loan from prominent collections around the world.  

Double Take is a humorous exhibition that does not provide answers, but draws back curtains to reveal questions around generally accepted assumptions. “The fact is that power, or the kind we recognize as such, is reflected in every last aspect of everyday life.  Often we hardly notice it, and yet it determines how we relate to physical, moral, and spiritual things,” shares Spanish artist Cristina Lucas. “Accepting the responsibilities of being a citizen involves openly questioning the mechanisms of authority. Trying to dissect those currents of power, those relations, is almost like attempting to answer the question, “Who are we?” Humor has historically been a device used by public intellectuals to facilitate social, religious, and political critique that might not otherwise be allowed in the public sphere – from Erasmus to Charlie Hebdo, from Gaganendranath Tagore to Nana Chudasama. In his celebrated work commissioned for the 12th Sharjah Biennial, “The Slapper and the Cap of Invisibility,” Hassan Khan uses tropes of Egyptian Comedy to shine light on political negotiation tactics.  In Vishal K. Dar’s “The Carousel of Dharma,” India’s Parliament House is transformed into a slide projector carousel that projects an image of itself on a screen, an image that whirls around with every click of the projector. Here we might be presenting what the idea of dharmachakra pravartana (the Turning of the Wheel of Justice, a Buddhist concept central to modern India’s judicial imagination) might look like in physical terms. But we also wonder about the contrast between the clunky sound of the projector and the smooth whirl of the Parliament as a fairground carousel. 

Double Take will explore the boundaries between artwork and audience. Nothing can be taken at face-value. The viewer will swear that they see a myriad of colors in Bangladeshi artist Rana Begum’s newest work, “No. 584,” but those colors are only created by the interaction between two colors, natural light, and the viewer’s eyes. The viewer will wonder how Nature Morte was able to hire an illegal North Korean worker to perform in Korean artist Gimhongsok’s work “Bunny’s Sofa,” and how that worker is able to lounge perfectly still on a sofa in a rabbit costume in the Delhi heat throughout the duration of the exhibition. What is skin-colored paint doing inside a bottle of Smart water, marketed as the most optimal type of water in the world? Swiss artist Pamela Rosenkranz, who is currently representing Switzerland at the Venice Biennale, considers the psychological and chemical manipulations used in advertising. Maryam Jafri, in a similar vein, explores socio-economic interests affecting these marketing tactics and the availability of certain products in her series “Product Recall.” What does public signage convey about civic government’s thoughts on man’s cognitive abilities? Ceal Floyer’s “Mind the Step” opens up hilarious questions about imagery and messages we might take for granted.  

Double Take will present the work of Philippe Parreno, one of France’s most important contemporary artists, in India for the first time. His work “Speech Bubbles” opens up a dialog about missing pieces of a conversation, and ideas and debates floating in mid-air. It also suggests suspended ideas that cannot happen without radical activation. “Nihilism is a natural consequence of a culture (or civilization) ruled and regulated by categories that mask manipulation, mastery and domination of peoples and nature,” writes public intellectual Cornel West. The Algerian/French artist Massinissa Selmani, who recently was awarded a special mention at the 56th Venice Biennale for his participation in Owkui Enwezor’s international pavilion, traces figures from newspaper imagery from around the world and places them into absurd confrontations, rendering the artist as the master of his own views of political reality.  

Speaking of the master, Spanish artist Cristina Lucas found three references spanning from 1780 (a painting by Fragonard) to 1929 (a passage from Virginia Woolfe’s A Room of One’s Own) likening women contributing to culture to dogs walking on their hind legs "It is not done well, but you are surprised to find it done at all,’ so does history repeat itself” (Virginia Woolfe). Lucas humorously challenges sexism through taking this metaphor literally, and working with a Russian dog trainer to train a group of dogs to “stand up” for themselves and walk on their hind legs. This performance is documented in her video entitled “You Can Walk Too.” Halfway across the world, Kochi based painter Sosa Joseph also renders the circus-like conditions surrounding women. In spite of recent stupidities (such as #Despitebeingawoman), this exhibition has nearly an equal split between male and female artists.  

About the curator: 

Diana Campbell Betancourt is an American born, Princeton educated curator based in Mumbai and has been working across South Asia for the last five years. She is the Artistic Director of the Samdani Art Foundation in Dhaka and the Chief Curator of the Dhaka Art Summit since 2013, and is the head of the Samdani Art Foundation collection which was recently recognized as one of the top 200 art collections in the world. Betancourt's research interests lie in rethinking cross-cultural encounters in public space, and rethinking what public space might mean. In addition to running the Foundation’s exhibitions and international exchange programs, she is building the Samdani Art Foundation collection ahead of the opening of a permanent space in Sylhet, Bangladesh, slated to open in 2018. Betancourt has collaborated with sculpture parks around the world contributing to new commissions of Indian art at institutions including Yorkshire Sculpture Park, deCordova Sculpture Park, and Wånas Konst. Betancourt co-curated "Energy Plus," the Mumbai City Pavilion for the 9th Shanghai Biennale and was a curatorial advisor for the 2015 New Museum Triennial in New York. She is a Henry Moore Institute Fellow for 2015-2016, curator in residence at the FRAC Champagne-Ardenne, and a research fellow at the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum for 2016.

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