Walking up the stairs to Vadehra Art Gallery in Okhla, I was greeted by curious-looking eyes gazing at me from the end of some metal funnels that were hanging from the ceiling, sitting on walls and hiding in corners. Scattered around inconspicuously, these eyes unsettled from their slumber those ever-present reservations about the age-old power of the gaze and the contemporary pervasiveness of surveillance. The eyes were part of a work titled Mujhe Sab Dicktha Hai (I Can See Everything) by Shreyas Karle, one of eleven emerging artists in the group show, Hyphenated Practices – an exhibition made up of artists who were short listed, but did not win, the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art’s (FICA) Emerging Artist Award in 2008.
The works in the exhibition are diverse, both in terms of concept and form, and hence, the title Hyphenated Practices has been chosen as an overriding metaphor, a conceptual framework, that draws upon the hyphen’s unique ability to provide a link across such diversity.
However, if there is one underlying current to the show as a whole, it is that of playfulness; an artistic playfulness that cuts across ideas and materials as well as artist-artwork-audience relations. From Sujay Mukherjee’s humorous exploration of notions of gender and the male body in Conspicuous Consumption, Aditi Kulkarni’s dark challenge to the apparent laws of gravity in Gravity, Pratap Modi’s Objects of Desire-- a manually scrolling slide show that presents us with a visual narrative of consumer culture’s ‘real-illusions,’ to Himanshu S., who has proposed to sell himself to the highest bidding collector in a work deviously titled Forever Yours Maybe. Claiming to be more shocking than Damian Hirst, Forever Yours Maybe, inevitably (and perhaps thankfully) falls short. However, it is the inconspicuous collection of small books and postcards as well as the wall collage made by Himanshu that deserve the most time and exploration. Himanshu’s book everyone is an artist* (*no conditions apply) opens with the simple sentence ‘when you are walking stop and smile at a stranger.’ Reminiscent of Yoko Ono’s instructions in Grapefruit and some of the anti-art art ideas proposed by the celebrated anarchic figure Hakim Bey, Himanshu’s book and contribution to the show is still as refreshing and relevant today as any other.
-- Alana Hunt
(Images, top to bottom: Sujay Mukherjee, Wardrobe of a Thin Man; Pratap Modi, Objects of Desire; Aditi Kulkarni, Gravity. All images courtesy of Vadehra Art Gallery and the artist.)
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