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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Hello from the Other Side

A group exhibition in Mumbai looks at what it takes to make the leap across divisions in time, space and perceptions.

Written by Pooja Pillai | Published: December 22, 2016 1:20:51 pm
mumbai, colaba exhibition, Diana Campbell Betancourt, art exhibition, art and culture news, indian express news Pae White’s Popstellation

WHAT connects a slide projection of a series of sunsets, a video of a sand fountain and an installation made of Japanese paper clay popcorn hanging from the ceiling? If you go to Project 88 in Mumbai’s Colaba, you would know that each of the above work is, in one way or another, challenging our notions of dualities. The show, curated by New York-based Diana Campbell Betancourt, features works by 12 different artists from around the world, all of which showcase the almost uncanny connections that can exist between two completely different concepts, places or things.

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The starting point of the exhibition, as Betancourt explains, is the idea of Mumbai and Los Angeles as twin cities. The gallery itself is based in Mumbai, and many artists in the show, such as Neha Choksi and Andrew Ananda Voogel have connections to both the cities. Then there is the fact that Mumbai and Los Angeles are almost 12 hours apart, almost exactly halfway around the globe from each other. “In fact, the title of the exhibition — ‘8688’ — is a reference to the number of miles between them,” says Betancourt. In works such as New York-based Lucy Raven’s film, Deccan Trap, which looks at the post-production of Hollywood films in India, and in Pae White’s Popstellation it is easy to find the connections between the two cities. Popstellation uses popcorn made of Japanese paper clay to play on the fact that the artist’s home Los Angeles, as well as the location of the gallery — Mumbai — are both entertainment capitals of their respective countries.

From drawing this connection between the two cities, the exhibition moves on to explore the question of what it takes to make connections between two points divided by space, time, perceptions and even identities. For example, with Untitled (Ladder/Serpent), Sandeep Mukherjee seeks to connect childhood memories of the folds in his mother’s saris in Pune to a ladder in his studio in Los Angeles. It’s a work that bridges a temporal divide, bringing together past memories and present experiences. Then there is the untitled diptych by Teresa Burga, in which the 81-year-old Peruvian artist has copied drawings made by her very young relatives, invoking a connection between two periods in a human being’s life — old age and childhood — which are associated with helplessness and dependence.
From the idea of twins, certain works go on to explore the idea of antipodes — two points on earth which are diametrically opposite to each other and are connected by a straight line that runs right through the centre of the earth. A video of Berlin-based artist Klaus Weber’s Sand Fountain, for instance, plays with the persistent childish idea that one only needs to dig deep enough to get through to the opposite side of the world. Or take New York-based Kirsten Mosher’s video installation Soul Mate 180, which connects the gallery space of Project 88 to its geographic antipode.

Historically, many myths have been associated with the idea of antipodes; in fact, the Greek root of the word means “men that have their feet against our feet”, which is commonly taken to mean “inhabitants of the opposite side of the globe who have backward feet”. We have come a long way from those days of stories about foreign lands being inhabited by “the dog-headed and the headless men that have their eyes in their chests”, as described by Herodotus in the fifth century BC. However, if one considers the implications of recent political developments, which have centered largely around hate-filled rhetoric against outsiders or foreigners — whether it’s in Great Britain, US, France, Hungary or even India — it shows that we the people haven’t travelled far enough.

Given this context and given that “8688” is about making connections regardless of similarities or dissimilarities, the beating heart of the show is Lisa Oppenheim’s The Sun is Always Setting Somewhere Else, in which the New York-based artist juxtaposes 15 images of sunset taken by US soldiers in Iraq with pictures of the sunset taken from her home. As she aligns the images of sunsets taken in two countries separated by distance, culture and perceptions, Oppenheim collapses their differences to highlight a profound, sadly-overlooked truth: we all live and die under the same sun.

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