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‘Circa’, ‘Bordel Monstre’, ‘Fact/Fission’, and ‘Contemporary Renaissance’
Jitish Kallat’s ‘Circa’ is being showcased at The Ian Potter Museum of Art, The University of Melbourne in association with Utopia@Asialink. Curated by A Jamieson, N King and B Starr, this is the renowned Indian artist’s first solo in an Australian museum. As the curators elaborate, his interventions in the Classics and Archaeology Gallery, including a 120-part sculpture, are installed in relation to a display of ancient Indian carved stone sculptures and colonial-era maps. Set in poetic and playful conversation with the venue’s atypical architecture and also the broad time-scale of the whole event, it simultaneously presents art right from the Neolithic period to the present day.

Taking a cue from his recent art projects and their reflective nature, the series is developed as an evolving narrative – emerging as an experiment involving multiple interventions. At the heart of it, is the core concept of ‘time’ and ‘recursion’, with chance, contagion and contingency, all playing a role! One utterance tends to infect another and procreating possibilities give rise to a tentative, dispersed, inconclusive and evolving oration in several parts of the museum in this shape-shifting project. Some of the works appear only for a few days, whereas some remain on view for a much longer duration. Others await conception when the departure of interventions happens to make space for them as part of a process incorporating entry and exit of different ideas.

Simultaneously, Asim Waqif’s ‘Bordel Monstre’ (Monstrous Mess) is on view at the prestigious Palais de Tokyo, Paris - the culmination of his fall residency in Paris, supported by SAM Art Projects. A gallery note elaborates: “In an atypical space, evocative of archaeological ruins but also of a survival from modernist architecture, he produces a deeply committed and witty intervention which visitors are invited to walk through and experience.” A graduate in architecture, the artist (born 1978) who now lives and works in New Delhi, has a practice turned as much toward art as design, but always closely linked to town planning and policies for the use of public space. Many of his previous artworks comprise video, sound, sculpture and dance.

“I was never interested so much in contemporary art, and never also thought of becoming an artist,” he has stated. Formerly working as an architect, he felt constrained while designing within the formal confines of an office, and hence began producing avant-garde installations about seven years ago. Demolition, deconstruction, the in-between stage are central to his installations, created in situ, whether it be on a river, or a piece of derelict land. He tries to mix tradition and technology, in a gesture that is poetic, but not devoid of risk. For his latest dazzling display, he has employed an array of unconventional materials, weaving debris into an elaborate, interactive sculpture.

A new exhibition, entitled ‘Contemporary Renaissance’, courtesy Casa Masaccio Arte Contemporanea and MK Search Art revolves around historic San Giovanni Valdarno. This industrial town preserves its cultural and artistic heritage. During a month-long artist residency project, four contemporary Indian artists drew inspiration from the culture and site- specific aspects there. They all soaked in the serene surroundings, nature, architecture, and interiors of spaces, caught in a time warp, as well as people and their peculiar customs. A curatorial note by Veeranganakumari Solanki explains: “The Tuscan town in the historic district of Arezzo traces a personal and significant association with art, culture and architecture. Being the birth place of the famous Renaissance artist Masaccio (born 1401), there’s a significant and protracted relationship with changing art movements and practices that integrate themselves within the inherent art and culture of this town.”

Among the participating artists, Remen Chopra’s work manifests the composed collective of her imagination, driven by her search for a new sense of harmony in a post modern world harried by fragmented confusion. It resembles a detailed report of her impressions and connections with the intensity of the laws of universe. These complexities and layers of the universe become paths of departure, and central to the course. Vibha Galhotra’s creations from her series 'Orbis Unum’ try to replace, deconstruct and dissolve the existential thought of the world of differences, religion, hierarchy, borders and power. She has drawn from the chastity of white to re-design the flags for ‘One World’, where the cultural and social symbols of geo-political places are denoted but not differentiated. Sonia Jose’s work during the residency at Casa Masaccio reflects impressions of her immediate surroundings - the architecture and diverse history of the associations of Valdarno with other Italian towns, signifying the connection of the contemporary re-birth (Renaissance), whereas in Monali Meher’s art, the emphasis is on the surrounding and its symbolic nature, reflected in her photographs and video works.

Last but not the least, New York-based Aicon Gallery presents ‘Fact/Fission’, a group show curated by Nitin Mukul involving fourteen contemporary artists, all keen to challenge preconceived ideological divisions, looking to break down the regional aesthetics in global art. An accompanying essay mentions: “Daily unrest in the name of democracy seems endemic to some nations, whereas in others, complacency breeds blissful collapse. Volatile shifts in the balance of power appear inevitable, with over-consumption taking a tangible toll. The media's reductive narratives and sweeping generalizations over large swathes of the globe are no longer plausible as Fact. New patterns emanate, emerging at a pace more rapid than ever in regard to technology, nature, policy and social upheaval. Cultural practitioners yearn to reflect this multiplicity of voices.

Enter ‘Fission. Fusion’, a term often used to describe the melding of different cultures, seems overused and worn out. Eric Ayotte, Ruby Chishti, Jace Clayton (aka DJ Rupture), Sarnath Banerjee, Gisela Insuaste, Mala Iqbal, James Cullinane, John Jurayj, Nitin Mukul, Seher Naveed, Pooneh Maghazehe, Yamini Nayar, Kanishka Raja, and Abir Karmakar feature in the show.