Friday 26th July 2013, 6 pm – 9 pm
Exhibition Description – Shamans and Dissent
The exhibition Shamans and Dissent presents results from the 2011 West Heavens – Artist Dispatch Project. Conducted in Delhi and Shanghai, the residency invited four artists to construct intersections between individual and group experiences in a time when primary experiences are devalued, and to envision other cultures. The residency was one of many projects spawned by the West Heavens project, which over the last three years has reflected on western-dominated knowledge constructs, concepts of time and history seen in colonial modernity and existential quandaries created by behavior systems in modern life.
In 2011, West Heavens dispatched the Mumbai artist Prajakta Potnis and Kolkata artist Dhrupadi Ghosh to Shanghai, and the two Beijing artists Liu Wei and Zheng Bo, along with Taiwanese curator Amy Cheng, to Delhi. The exhibition Shamans and Dissent presents the work of these four artists, plus that of Lin Chi-Wei, a Taiwanese artist residing in Beijing, who, in early 2013, was also invited to Delhi. Not only about the artists' experiences and exchanges during these temporary residencies, the exhibition was conceived as a platform for experiential artwork and extends concepts and practices that had been underway for some time.
The exhibition concept and name Shamans and Dissent were inspired by an essay by Indian philosopher Ashis Nandy titled Shamans, Savages and the Wilderness: On the Audibility of Dissent and the Future of Civilizations. Furthermore, the curatorial intention was to consider the artists' intersecting experiences as an integrated text in a way that would value the unique history and circumstances of each participant. The result is a process that is continuously experienced, rearranged and presented, and irrespective of when or where it is applied, one that consciously reflects on the movement and exchange of global culture, knowledge and art
As an extension of the Artist Dispatch Project initiated by Raqs Media (who see art as a form of “kinetic contemplation”), the exhibition emphasizes presence underlying both the body and experience, interrogates what presence entails, and once again posits the potential of multiple narratives and political action, and the contemplative power of the lost tradition of storytelling.
The exhibition concept also responds to alienation and fragmentation arising from deployment of biopower under different modernizations, specifically its principles of organization and distribution. Nandy uses the shaman to exemplify the power of dissenting voices and renegade opinions, and his powerful insights urge deeper reflection of, or launch a counter offensive to, the dominant global political ideology of colonial modernity and its imposition of definitions on individuals. Nandy calls this struggle the “recovery of other selves,” and uses the shaman as a vivid and effective symbol of non-conforming, diverging opinion, and a strategy for this recovery.
Exhibited works reflect each artist's long-term beliefs and perceptions. Zheng Bo is known for incorporating the audience into his work, and here his concern is gatherings of Filipino laborers residing in Hong Kong and the ideas of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, architect of India's constitution. He inserts Ambedkar’s ideas into the contemporary dialog about social class in China and Hong Kong and by manufacturing situations, transforms intersecting experiences. The young artist Dhrupadi Ghosh's enormous ingenuity comes from her long term political engagement with neoliberalism, bureaucracy and her contemplation and advocacy of social justice in India. Her areas of interest are the street and community. The exhibition presents a series of posters by Ghosh, which reflect her long-term participation in social movements, and contain her powerful and highly significant voice.
Prajakta Potnis makes delicate and sensitive work that gets to the essence of things with small details. She excavates individual histories from collective experience; two perspectives that testify to one another in a dialectical fashion. Potnis has sought out debris from old buildings in Shanghai on the verge of demolition to revisit historical process and individual memories through material evidence. Relying on her careful observations, she weaves together layers of materials to present the harmony and disharmony of large and small histories. Another piece by Potnis displays letters exchanged between people living in India and China, which tells interwoven stories about changing times and places and personal experience.
Like alchemy, Liu Wei's work is startling in its power to create something out of nothing. Through his unique way of organizing elements, he awakens us to different ways of seeing the world and modes of living that defy verbal description. From various visual experiences, he projects subtle feelings and mental states that exist in the intersections between individual and collective experiences of transitioning from traditional to modern. In this exhibition Liu presents a montage-style installation composed of video footage of people interacting in and around Beijing, which features shifting lifestyles, values and natural environments. Lin Chi-Wei reflects on the alienation between the body and mind, classification of knowledge, and even divisions between fields of inquiry produced by the world's dominant forms of rationality. While he has produced art mostly using performance and sound to date, for this exhibition he presents three series of drawings that he has dedicated much time and energy to, as well as an assemblage of objects. These works refer to unique experiences and states of mind and comment on the world with the artist's mysterious and individual vision. They are filled with symbolic and Surrealist implications, drift toward us like whisperings from his spiritual realm, and point out many fascinating links between the individual and world.
Organized by West Heavens and Inter-Asia School
Presented by Hanart Square
Supported by Moonchu Foundation