Exhibition Review


Lines of Control:’ Partition as a Productive Space ‘- Zayyana Kamran

LINE OF CONTROL OPENED January 21, 2012  
CLOSED April 1, 2012                                                                                                                       
LOCATION In the Bartels Gallery, Floor 1L, and the Moak, Class of 1953, Schaenen, Opatrny, and wing galleries, Floor 2L

At its core, Lines of Control: Partition as a Productive Space investigates the historic upheaval of the 1947 partition of India that spawned the nations of Pakistan and later Bangladesh. The exhibition is part of an ongoing project initiated in 2005 by Green Cardamom, a London-based nonprofit arts organization. Expanding on the significance of partition in South Asia, Lines of Control at the Johnson Museum also addresses physical and psychological borders, trauma, and the reconfiguration of memory in other partitioned areas: North and South Korea, Sudan and South Sudan, Israel and Palestine, Ireland and Northern Ireland, Armenia and its diaspora, and questions of indigenous sovereignty in the United States. The exhibition explores the products and remainders of partition and borders characteristic of the modern nation-state, and includes the continued impact of colonization, the physical and psychic violence of displacement, dilemmas of identity and belonging, and questions of commemoration. Artists represented in the exhibition are Bani Abidi, Francis Alÿs,Sarnath Banerjee, Farida Batool, Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, Muhanned Cader, Duncan Campbell, Iftikhar Dadi, DAAR, Anita Dube, Taghreed Elsanhouri, Sophie Ernst, Gauri Gill, Shilpa Gupta, Zarina Hashmi, Emily Jacir, Ahsan Jamal, Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Amar Kanwar, Noa Lidor, Mario Mabor, Nalini Malani, Naeem Mohaiemen, Tom Molloy, Rashid Rana, Raqs Media Collective, Jolene Rickard, Hrair Sarkissian, Seher Shah, Surekha, Hajra Waheed, Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries, and Muhammad Zeeshan .The exhibition at the Johnson Museum is co-organized by Green Cardamom and the Museum, andcocurated byHammadNasar,IftikharDadi, and Ellen Avril, with NadaRaza assisting. Major funding for the exhibition, catalogue, and accompanying programs is provided by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, theJarett F. andYounghee Kim-Wait Fund for Contemporary Islamic and Middle Eastern Arts, theJarett F. andYounghee Kim-Wait Fund for Korean Arts, Gandhara-Art,Mondriaan Fund, and Ali andAmnaNaqvi. If Lines of Control critically raises the links between borders and colonialism, it also calls into question the relations between contemporary arts and technologies. Many of the borders and control lines in this exhibition have been mediated through some or the other form of technology, and one could almost plot a history of border technologies navigating this exhibition. This rich conglomeration of technologies is only to the advantage of the exhibition’s theme underlining its urgency and constituting a necessary counterpoint to the celebratory discourse of new media arts from the subcontinent that have been the fare of much European and North American curatorial interests within the last decade.



Lives and works in Lahore, Pakistan

The urban environment of Lahore is the inspiration for Rashid Rana’s work — selling popular American and Indian film posters, Lahore’s street stalls rest beneath the grandeur of Mughal architecture. The contrast of physical scale and cultural history is visually evident in Rana’s meticulous photographs. At first glance, famous Indian film stars or idyllic scenic landscapes are depicted. However, on closer examination, the subject shifts, once focus adjusts, to the smaller, pixel-like images embedded within the larger work. Rana’s attention to the minutiae of an image draws on the historical tradition of miniature painting from South Asia. The influence of this illuminated manuscript tradition — its detailed attention to composition, surface, form, colour and scale — can be found in his photographic works. However, his conceptual departure from this traditional style and medium is distinctly his own. Fascinated by how meaning is often misunderstood in our media-oriented society, Rana’s photographic practice creates images that offer a different view of how popular ideas and stereotypes are created. His art investigates the representation of reality, as well as the politics of gender, violence and authenticity in the age of global communication. Rashid Rana is one of the most important artists of his generation in Pakistan. Rana has been included in numerous exhibitions in Pakistan and abroad, most recently in the ‘Parallel Realities: 3rd Fukuoka Asian Art Triennale 2005′, Japan; and the ‘Singapore Biennale 2006′. Gallery 16, QAG A full-colour publication is available from the Gallery Store. Rashid RANA, 'All eyes skyward during the annual parade' 2004

RASHID RANA All eyes skyward during the annual parade 2004 Collection: The artist

Rashid RANA, All Eyes Skywards during Annual Parade (Detail), 2004, C print, diasec, 250.2cm x 609.6cm.

Title: All Eyes Skywards during Annual Parade (Detail)
Author/s | Creator/s: Rashid RANA
Documenter/s: Sabih AHMED
Description: The work is viewed in two ways. According to the exhibition catalogue of ‘Living off the Grid’ (2009), the large life-size panels show us a stadium where the spectators are craning their necks to watch what is possibly a fly past. The Pakistan flag on its left echoes the sense of nationality among the crowd. However, as the audience approaches the work, the pixels making up the scene are in fact stills of Bollywood films starring popular Hindi cinema stars. The message is, despite the tensions between the two nations India and Pakistan, Bollywood films are eagerly watched among the public. The artist implied the multifaceted influences of one’s identity.
Artwork-Medium: C print, diasec
Artwork-Dimensions | Length: 250.2cm x 609.6cm
Year of Creation: 2004
Exhibition | Event Title: Living Off The Grid
Duration of Happening: 30 November – 21 December 2009
Year of Happening: 2009
Place of Happening: India

http://www.gagallery.com/press/leonardo/artists Miniatures

 Pakistani artist Rashid Rana’s All Eyes Skyward During the Annual Parade (2004) seductively draws the viewer into a composite life-size photographic image of a Pakistani crowd seeing a spectacle in the sky during a national parade. Sensing fuzziness in this image one is drawn closer to it and only then is it revealed that the image has been digitally composed through a colour-sensitive assemblage of stills from blockbuster Hindi films such as Sholay and Umrao Jaan, among others. Here, digital image technology serves to unravel a political-cultural dichotomy — the people looking up to a military spectacle partake in the state’s discourse that constructs India as an ‘enemy’; and yet the minute film stills through which this image is composed gesture to popular culture and the people’s fantasies fostered by Indian cinema, itself often accessed through smuggled VHS tapes.

Links to the above mentioned pictures and information;








Farida Batool

Muzna Akbar

  • Lines of Control: It investigates the notion of partition- and border-making practices, where nations are formed through forging new identities, producing new histories, reconfiguring memories, and the patrolling of physical and psychological borders (http://www.artandeducation.net/announcement/lines-of-control/)
  • An exhibition of videos, photographs, prints, paintings, sculptures, and installations by thirty-three international artists that grapple with the seductive simplicity of drawing lines as a substitute for learning how to live with each other… At its core, this exhibition investigates the historic upheaval of the 1947 partition of India that spawned the nations of Pakistan and later Bangladesh. (http://artnearalfred.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/lines-of-control-partition-as-a-productive-space/)
  • It’s intriguing to consider the differing reactions that may have been provoked by ‘Lines of Control’ in its three venues. The catalogue accompanying the Green Cardamom exhibition also reveals works in the Dubai and Karachi exhibitions not on show here; as most people will only visit one of the exhibitions, many of these works will be seen by only one audience. In this sense, the London stage feels like a launch pad for what could be a larger exhibition, which will explore the complexity of partition in further depth. But for now it offers a compelling introduction to an unduly overlooked subject.  (http://www.frieze.com/shows/review/lines_of_control/)
  • Batool is a graduate of the National College of Arts in Lahore. Her photographs seem to celebrate sensuality and gender liberation in a gritty urban setting, and to be upbeat and optimistic. Batool stages her images. Titles like Love Letter to Lahore – red lipstick kisses seen on top of shattered store window glass — and Two Steps Forward, One Step Back — male and female feet seen intertwined on the shower floor — confirm a youthful zeal, sexual impetuosity and sense of invulnerability. Against the gray architecture and everyday activity of men in the street of an old city, a beautiful young woman in pink traditional dress skips high over her ribbons and flowing drapes. She appears to be absorbed in her own world and pleased with herself. She uses lenticular plastic to encase her layered photographs and give each image movement. For the most part I found that element of her work unnecessary and excessive. However, in the bare truncated torso against a black field, entitled And She Wondered , the effects of the slight movement of the torso in this stark image worked well. (http://artshiftsanjose.com/?p=655)
  • The works of Farida Batool serve as metaphors for the political upheavals and tumultuous history of her country. They identify with the fear that is spread throughout Pakistan and the many citizens who have suffered at the hands of the regime; yet when away from it, Batool is constantly confronted with her own feelings of guilt, and nostalgia for her homeland. She magnifies and examines these emotions in her use of lenticular prints (3-d holographic photographs) as a medium. Their double-faceted layering allows the viewer to reflect upon the artist’s duel perspective, where the injustices of living in both the East and West are scrutinised… Sohni Dharti 2 (Dear Land) shows an image of the artist walking through Russell Square in London (where she now lives) wearing modern clothes with a flavour of traditional Pakistani dress in the drape of the scarf around her neck. The vibrant reds and yellows of her clothes and the flowers in the park around her are symbolic of spring celebrations and festivals in Pakistan. The lenticular print transforms this peaceful scene into a cloud of smoke from the burning building of the Dyal Singh Mansion in Lahore, a colonial building that was targeted by religious extremists. The smoke appears to engulf Farida – eliminating her existence – as if the terror from her home country has finally caught up with her. Phool Mera Watan (My Land, A Flower) shows an aerial view of Lahore, as if looking through the bottom of a drone aircraft from which missiles could be dropped. The work depicts flowers and a baby ejected from the plane, floating above the ground with the artist’s homeland in the distance. Dekhna manaa hai! (Seeing is Prohibited) shows 450 pairs of eyes, placed like tiles on the wall as they look at the other works in the show and at us the viewer. The eyes blink and change direction as the viewer walks past the work. The piece emulates Batool’s feelings of discomfort and paranoia in expressing the constant surveillance of the ever-watchful eyes of the State, the Taliban and the media… These mixed-media creations of digital images and pencil drawings show a pregnant belly superimposed onto drawings of military operations in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. The pregnant belly is emblematic of motherhood, protection and one’s homeland, whilst the ghostly images of death and destruction rise to the surface in an eerie yet poignant manner. Such gender orientation features strongly in Batool’s work as she calls upon her own experiences as a female citizen of Pakistan and the discrimination to which she was subjected while there… She is the daughter of a noted Pakistani legal scholar and expert in Shari’a law and was introduced to political activism from a young age.(http://artdaily.com/news/33271/Pakistani-Artist-Farida-Batool-Presents-New-Works-in-Her-First-Solo-U-S–Exhibition-at-Aicon#.VDwXx_mSySo)
  • In Farida Batool’s photographs, lenticular prints (the image changes with the viewing angle) become a metaphor for complex political realities. In “Nai Reesan Shehr Lahore Diyan (There Is No Match of the City Lahore)” a girl skips rope in front of burned-out buildings — the aftermath of arsons committed by religious extremists. And in “Line of Control” the torsos of a naked man and woman press together to form a border as controversial as the one that runs through Kashmir. (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/02/arts/design/02gall.html?_r=4&)
  • This exciting lenticular print entitled Nai Reesan Shehr Lahore Diyan by Farida Batool (b 1970) depicts an innocent child skipping on a dilapidated street in Lahore. The striking piece is typical of the artist’s preoccupation with recreating nostalgic scenes from everyday life in Pakistan. Batool’s lenticular works, which are similar to a hologram in effect, are politically charged and represent the socio-political environment of her native Pakistan, focusing on daily fears and anxieties. Having studied and worked abroad in recent years, Batool has subsequently engaged with issues of being part of the diaspora and the associated feelings of nostalgia for her homeland. This unique piece, which means ‘There is no match for the city of Lahore’ is her own expression of these sentiment. (http://dawnadvertiser.wordpress.com/2013/06/07/amin-jaffer-picks-nai-reesan-shehr-lahore-diyan-by-farida-batool/)
  • On partition art’s growth in last decade: “In Partition’s immediate aftermath, most Indian artists were unable, or more probably unwilling, to address its smouldering embers. And in Pakistan, the idea of critically examining Partition opened up the uncomfortable prospect of national existential crisis. Since Partition’s 50th anniversary a decade ago, however, a rich seam of artistic production engaging the topic has emerged.”- Artists’ works discussed in depth: Shilpa Gupta’s Aar Baar, Farida Batool’s Line of Control, Anita Dube’s River/Disease (http://artradarjournal.com/2009/02/23/middle-eastern-and-south-asian-artists-explore-partitions-in-3-city-show-lines-of-control/)
  • In Farida Batool’s lenticular print, the line of control is formed by the dividing lines of two bodies pressed together. The fleshy forms allude to sex but in this context also to the intimacy that remains between two countries that have been partitioned. The print sways and shifts as the viewer moves before it, yet its central line remains constant. (http://www.frieze.com/shows/review/lines_of_control/)
  • Line of Control
  • Line of Control






  • Time out Mumbai

              Bani Abidi’s art emphasizes the everyday similarities between Indian’s and Pakistani’s:                http://www.timeoutmumbai.net/art/features/barrier-method              “This fortnight, Abidi continues to explore the relationship between India and Pakistan in Section Yellow, her first solo show in Mumbai. The artist has been living in India for the last two-and-a-half years and believes that the two neighbours share a “larger feudal reality”. The centrepiece of the exhibition is a video titled The Distance from Here. It takes place in an “unidentified location in South Asia” and reflects Abidi’s contention that “at a certain level we all fall into the same bracket, whether we are Indians or Pakistanis”. The Distance from Here unfolds in two areas: a large open-air ground and a waiting room filled with chairs. Each location fills up with people of various ages – men, women and children – holding files and forms, suggesting they are trying to fulfil a bureaucratic procedure. Yellow lines demarcate the ground into orderly rows. People pass through a security door frame and are inspected by two guards. In the second setting, the subjects wait: anxious, bored and listless. In each location, the actors periodically leave the frame for the unknown place they were queuing up to enter. There is an ominous ambiguity about the whereabouts of the subjects and an uncertainty of the fate that they will meet once they reach their destination.”



          The Distance From Here, 2010

          The work is a glance at the psychological and architectural tension surrounding applicants queuing in lines to apply for visas. Through multiple frames and gestures Abidi builds up an anatomy of preparation, anxiety and patience. The entire video is a play on coercion using migration as a metaphor.

  • ArtAsiaPacific

            SECTION YELLOW : Reviews byAVNIDOSHI (from march/april 2011); PROJECT 88 http://artasiapacific.com/Magazine/72/SectionYellowBaniAbidi

          In the video The Distance from Here (2010), Abidi veers away from the explicit, if poetic, documentary work for which she is best known: the film was made on a set with hired extras playing the role of expectant visa applicants. They file onto a bus to an embassy. They are ushered into lines. They wait to be frisked, one by one, as they watch those before them disappear behind a fabric curtain. Arriving at the Indian consulate, a carefully secluded and tightly controlled zone, becomes a parallel voyage with its own internal protocol and safety regulations. The embassy, in this regard, functions as a third country. Crossing its glass-door threshold is a solitary rite of passage in Distance: the crowd is quiet, almost silent, engaging in little or no conversation. They carry stoic, if not vacant, expressions on their faces.

The Indian fear of terrorist threats, and ongoing territorial contentions in Kashmir, have led to dwindling numbers of Pakistanis being granted access to India. Abidi carefully renders the tedious passage of time that is central to the experience of waiting-—an interminable, conflicted simmer of emotions. They wait keenly for their turn, yet they dread rejection.

  • Mumbai Boss


  • Govett-Brewster Art Gallery

http://www.govettbrewster.com/Exhibitions/Artists/Bani-Abidi The Distance From Here 2010 reflects on thede-humanising experiences of migration and inter-border security – visa applicants who are caught in the silent tension of hope and fear when leaving their homeland.  Played by actors within a film set, the processes of filing, stamping, travelling, passing through security and visiting the consulate and embassy speak of the powerhegemonies that control freedom, the paranoia of terrorism and the breaking down  and subversion of personal identities intonationalisms.BaniAbidi (born Karachi, Pakistan 1971) divides her practice between Karachi and New Delhi, India. Working primarily in photography and video, her works have been exhibited widely in solo and group shows internationally.Abidi has taken part in the Fukuoka Asian ArtTriennale 2005, the Singapore Biennale 2006,Gwangju Biennale 2008 and Lyon Biennale 2009 and well as exhibiting in group and solo exhibitions across India, Europe, the US and the UK.BaniAbidi is the 2011/2 Artist in Residence at theDAAD BerlinerKunstlerprogramm in Berlin.

  • Video Stills :

http://www.baniabidi.com/links/Distance12.html SY-Distance3 SY-Distance4 SY-Distance5 SY-Distance8 SY-Distance9 SY-Distance10 SY-Distance11 SY-Distance12 SY-Distance13 SY-Distance14 SY-Distance16 SY-Distance17 SY-Distance18


An Exhibition at the Deutsche Guggenheim



It unites a selection of recent films and videos that investigate the individual nature of life and the moving image and that are produced by some of the most innovative and rigorous media practitioners today: Shumona Goel and Shai Heredia, Sonal Jain & Mriganka Madhukaillya of Desire Machine Collective, Amar Kanwar, and Kabir Mohanty. All of these artists have a background in cinema and a majority of them continue to screen their films in international festivals. They employ film and video to formulate complex aesthetic, technological, and sociopolitical statements that question the often-bombastic cinematic strategies, methods, forms, and subjects of the global media industry. Being Singular Plural thus celebrates and explores the unobtrusive and the unseen.

Philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy’s idea of “being singular plural” (from his book of the same name, first published in 1996), in which the individual is always understood within a social framework, provides the structural scaffolding for the exhibition. The films’ and videos’ images do not serve as windows to the world, nor point to any transcendental truths, but are presented as they are, distinguished by their evidence. As Nancy has argued, the emptying out of representation, wherein evidence lies, points to the moving image as an end in itself rather than a means to an end that may lie outside the image’s surface.

This embodiment of truth, as it resides within the very structure and materiality of the moving image, overturns previous expectations of how it communicates – it seeks to bridge worlds through affect and sensation. Recognizing the complex character of the “first-person plural” and the interconnectedness of all beings, the selected films and videos invite the viewer to study, reassess, and challenge conventional categories such as fact and fiction, art and cinema, and objectivity and subjectivity, thereby instigating new kinds of viewership. By manipulating sound, image, and text in experimental ways, the artists shift viewers’ positions from those of passive spectator-ship to those of active participation-to places where the “we” of “being together” is located in the immediate here and now.

I Am Micro

(Shumona Goel & Shai Heredia, India, 2012)

Islola Cinema: http://www.isolacinema.org/en/programme/films-and-sections/i-am-micro

I Am MicroThe multi-award-winning experimental essayistic film miniature by two young Indian filmmakers pays tribute to the medium of film while reflecting on the gradual disappearance of Indian independent cinema.

režija/directed by Shumona Goel, Shai Heredia scenarij/screenplay Shumona Goel, Shai Heredia fotografija/cinematography Avijit Mukul Kishore glasba/music Pauline Oliveros zvok/sound Shumona Goel, Vivek Sachidanandan, Kevin Pyne montaža/editing Shumona Goel, Shai Heredia producenta/producers Shumona Goel, Shai Heredia produkcija/production Future East Film kopija/print source Future East Film format/format 35 mm dolžina/running time 15′ subtitles English The multi-award-winning I Am Micro by two young Indian filmmakers, Shumona Goel and Shai Heredia, is an experimental essayistic film miniature that pays tribute to the medium of film while reflecting on the gradual disappearance of Indian independent cinema. “I Am Micro is a heartfelt portrait of a filmmaker struggling to work outside industry economics. Kamal Swaroop’s poetic voiceover not only describes his own experiences in experimental filmmaking but also serves as a window into a growing movement to resist commercial Indian cinema today.” (Shumona Goel and Shai Heredia) The film is set at National Instruments (NIL) Ltd., a defunct and derelict factory in Jadavpur, Kolkata. The factory produced National 35, the only 35 mm camera ever to be produced in India. Although the camera’s hey-day was short-lived, the factory played an important role in the history of Indian cinema. With soft black-and-white cinematography and a measured survey of the facades, the search for compositions within the derelict factory and the focus on dusty objects, the two filmmakers create a memento mori not only of the environment itself, but also, at the same time, of the slowly disappearing film culture as well. “With I Am Micro, we wanted to make a film about the individual artist trying to make films in the world and often failing. It is ironic that by the time we ended up printing I Am Micro in 2012, the labs we were working in had shut down. More recently, ARRI, Panavision, and Aaton have stopped making film cameras. And yet we believe that there will always be filmmakers who will find a way, because, for them, cinema is absolutely necessary, or important: it is essential cinema.” Shumona Goel and Shai Heredia Shumona Goel Received a BA in film from Bard College in 1997. She received an MA in Asian Cinema from the School of Oriental and African Studies in 1999. Her films have been screened at numerous film festivals and since 2008 she has been exploring expanded forms of cinema. Shumona especially enjoys working with low-tech, outdated formats such as VHS cassettes and slide projections. Shai Heredia A filmmaker and curator of film art. In 2003, Shai Heredia founded Experimenta – the international festival for experimental cinema in India, which has rapidly developed into a significant international forum for artists’ film and video. Shai has also curated experimental film programmes for various international film festivals. She holds an MA in documentary film from Goldsmiths College, London. She has worked as a Programme Executive at the India Foundation for the Arts, Bangalore and currently also teaches at the Srishti School of Art, Design & Technology   Video Stills:   .441360981_640 ins3goel-heredia-i-am-micro ShumonaGoel_Iammicro_2009  Capture Capture2 Capture3 CapturegCapture3Capturef Capture   ______________________________________________________________________________________   LINES OF CONTROL SHILPA GUPTA – THERE IS NO BODER HERE (2005-2006) (ANDREA D’SOUZA)   Topological ‘Border’ Walls in Indian Visual Art

  • Her article deals with art works performing the passage from line to zone, or reconfiguring the line as a relational network. She suggests that looking at borders as topological spaces can shed new light on art projects from India and Pakistan that do not address them only as signifiers of cut but as complex, networked structures. Referring in particular to the installations Untitled 2005-2006 and Here There is no Border (2005-2006) by Indian artist Shilpa Gupta, she explores how art can activate a process of change by operating through the linking quality of frontiers. The idea of network here stresses the relational ontology surfacing through the experience of art works.

‘Lines of Control’: Exhibit explores artistic lines of origin

  • “Lines of Control” displays the artistic gravity of solid, straight lines immediately. One of the first pieces in the upper gallery, Nadia Kaabi-Linke’s “All Along the Watchtower,” may initially confuse visitors. Identical shadows of huge hunting stands fall onto the wall and ground but the actual object is absent. The gravity of the idea and the large scale of the work are daunting and impressive.
  • “Untitled (There Is No Border Here)” by Shilpa Gupta consists of caution tape with the words “There is no border here” in place of “caution.” The tape pieces spell out several random phrases, like “I want to cut the world in half,” while creating stripes to fill out the flag. It sparks the question of whether there’s any logic behind patriotism.
  • This work is like a pattern poem written in the shape of its subject matter, the flag shape of the wall drawing outlines the territorial sphere under discussion. However, the yearning, lyrical text contradicts any territorial certainty, underlining the abstract nature of border divisions. Moreover, the flag is free-floating and the text cuts off mid-sentence. The absurdity of trying to chop up the sky is reminiscent of another Art Fund International work by Amar Kanwar, ‘A Season Outside’, which considers the ownership of trees on either side of the India/Pakistan border. Forces of nature defy divisions constructed by humans, whether geographical, religious, social or gender.

There is No Border HereJohny ML, Art Concerns, Review, Feb 2007

  • Shilpa Gupta ‘I tried very hard to cut the sky in half. One for my lover and one for me. But the sky kept moving and clouds from his territory came into mine. I tried pushing it away with both my hands. Harder and harder. But the sky kept moving and the clouds from my territory went into his. I brought a sofa and placed it in the middle. But the clouds kept floating over it. I built a wall in the middle. But the sky started flow through it. I dug a trench. And then it rained and the sky made clouds over the trench. I tried very hard to cut..’
  • These lines, for me, sounds like a letter from the war front. A lovelorn soldier sits in one of the trenches and writes down these lines. He is fighting a war for someone. The lines get blurred as the tears from his eyes trickle on the letters. Had there been no colour movies, we could have imagined this scene in black and white. The intensity of a world where the evil was depicted in black and the good was etched in white. It could be a cliché.
  • Now these lines are pasted on a huge wall at the Apeejay Media Centre, New Delhi. It is pasted in the form of a flag; a piece of clothe that loads a vain man’s chest with the pride of belonging and resultant arrogance. It flutters. This yellow flag is nobody’s flag. Come closer and know me, it invites. The closer you get, the better you read the ants like formations on the yellow stripes. Like the ‘Om’ written on a Hindu sage’s clothes, you see the inscriptions: THERE IS NO BORDER HERE. It goes on like a chanting.
  • This work of Shilpa Gupta is simple and direct. Flags that should have been heralding the freedom, now limits it. In its inscribed nationality, ideology, caste, creed, race a flag becomes a limiting thing; it embodies the ‘border’. The artist, who is famous for her multimedia installations, sets the tone with this work. And you are reminded that there is a border. The unintended irony comes to fore when you stand in front of her interactive video projections. To view these works, one has to stand behind a ‘border line’ (Please stay on this side of the line) so the technical devices can capture your images and make you participate in her works.
  • Pieces likeSinging Cloud and Untitled (There is no border here) include text in the form of song or prose, respectively. How do you work with text? Are there particular qualities or sentiments of writing that you wish to highlight?
  • I work quite instinctively with text so there is nothing pre-planned. Though I do know the end form of the text — if it will be a wall drawing or will become an audio piece. It is not that I have a text with me, and then plan what the form will be. Both are integrated from the start.

detailed view of ‘untitled (there is no border here)’   loc-gupta-border __________________________________________________________________________________________

Feroza Gulzar

 Lines of Control: ‘Partition as a Productive Space’

All along the watchtower«, 2012 by Nadia Kaabi-Linke

January 21 — April 01, 2012

The Lines of Control symposium is organized with the exhibition Lines of Control: Partition as a Productive Space at Cornell University’s Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. The project was initiated by Green Cardamom, a London-based nonprofit arts organization, in 2005, and is an exhibition-led inquiry into the formative and ongoing dilemmas of the nation-state in the modern and contemporary era. It investigates the notion of partition- and border-making practices, where nations are formed through forging new identities, producing new histories, reconfiguring memories, and the patrolling of physical and psychological borders.



  • Each of the pieces in the exhibition stands alone as an exploration of a single aspect of the tensions between physical borders and social reality. Therefore, it seems fitting that each piece has its own distinct space on the gallery’s walls or floor. A range of mediums is represented in the exhibition—woodblock prints, photography, video, textile crafts, installation—allowing a broad experience in content as well as technique. Viewed together, the pieces offer a critical examination of the relationship between national identity, culture and borders.



  • “Lines of Control: Partition as a Productive Space” critically examines the experience of human-made boundaries, both physical and social. It may be easy in Durham to feel distant from the stresses of border conflict, but the reality is that there are boundaries everywhere. The Nasher invites Duke and UNC-CH students to break down boundaries at a Beyond Blue Borders student mixer on November 7. Perhaps we can reconcile our differences even though we are strangers, just as the final piece in the exhibition invites us to do: “The Translator’s Silence,” by The Raqs Media Collective, can be taken away. Each piece of art is a translucent, tri-folded paper that features three poetry fragments, written in their original languages of English, Urdu/Hindustani and Bengali. The English section reads, “Will you, Beloved Stranger, ever witness Shahid—two destinies at last reconciled by exiles?”


             All along the watchtower, 2012 by Nadia Kaabi-Linke installation for the Lines of Control exhibition at                   the Herbert F Johnson Museum, Cornell, Ithaca, NY

            January 21 — April 01, 2012
  • Nadia Kaabi-Linke was born 1978 in Tunis, Tunisia, and lives and works in Berlin and Tunis. Her practice can be read as a kind of documentary sculpture, creating an indexical relationship with the world and people around her. Her works have made visible such every­day phenomena as the bodily traces of people waiting at bus stops and scrapes of paint chips from various city walls, which she suspends in the air to create new cartographies. On a more somber register, an ongoing project, Impunities, in­volves creating an impression of the physical marks left on the bodies of women who have suffered domestic abuse.


  • Many of Nadia Kaabi-Linke’s works investigate the contradictions and entanglements of the innocent, tender, and ephemeral within a context of violence. In Untitled (2010), they are sought out in childhood, the root of every personal experience. Through the shadow cast by her body, the piece’s observer cannot help rendering part of the text projected onto the floor unreadable, in this way fragmenting and eradicating a biographical report on a childhood stamped by fear and violence. In order to learn of this violence, the viewer is “physically” forced to penetrate into the work, do it violence, hence in a way repeat what has been buried in deepest memory. NKL reproduces a continuum of guilt, in the same way that former children perpetrate the same injustice on their own children once inflicted on them by their parents. In this work, the motif of the inseparable intertwining of experience and destruction is concretized in various ways. The account of a damaged life is projected onto the floor as a spiral-formed text. Those wishing to read it must move in a circle, so that the dizzy feeling generated by the reading doubles while they are standing with the back to the center. Here is the place where the text ends and it it also the place of a paradoxical object – a hair-nest. This nest, usually known as a shelter gives the feeling of security and warmth, is made of barbed wire matted with human hair – an allegory of the family hell as social nucleus. The new life born in such a nest easily perishes within it. That experiences the world as a state of emergency, an experience from which it cannot fully free himself all its life. The account is also concerned with that.
  • This experience of the state of emergency is reproduced under another sign inAll Along the Watchtower (2010), which presents the shadow of a hunting post recalling the watchtowers known from concentration camps or restricted areas. But the material object, the vehicle of the surveillance to which the shadow points, is no (longer) present in the room. Here as well, the viewer loses his sovereign position vis-à-vis the artwork. Where in Berlin à fleur de peau the traces could be of his own presence, and where in Untitled his own body is manifest as a destructive moment, here he experiences himself as the object of a refined form of surveillance always appearing a step ahead. Only a trace – a shadow –can be seen of the “real” watchtower-hunting post; the “authentic” instance of surveillance withdraws from his view. The ghostly dimension of this situation is strengthened by the similarity between hunting post and watchtower. The observer experiences his politicization as an animalization and vice versa, for he is reduced to his naked life, delivered unprotected to an armed eye – which, to be sure, is nowhere to be seen


  • All Along the Watchtower (2012) was created as a site-specific work at the Johnson Museum of Art. This piece, which spans much of the floor and rises to a height of 18 feet in the largest gallery, continues the concerns of the artist in Fly­ing Carpets by rendering the shadow of absent forms visible. The missing struc­ture here is an enormous hunting stand, such as those placed in fields and forests to hunt wild animals. However, the artist recognizes the formal similarity of the hunting stand with the edifice of watchtowers at prisons and borders, in­cluding those erected at the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz. The artist states:
  • When visitors step into the empty gallery space and see the shade of an object on the ground and walls, they will immediately try to connect the visual shape to a real object. Perhaps they will recognize the hunting stand; perhaps they will remember the construction of a watchtower. In any case, they will search for what is lost—and for the observer. This awk­ward situation recalls for me the experience of panoptical surveillance sys­tems, which have become part of our everyday life. Monitoring devices and structures are ubiquitous, but they are hardly visible. We can never see who is observing us behind our computer-screens, or behind the cam­era lenses in public spaces. We feel observed without seeing or knowing the observer.
  • The conflation of the hunting stand with the watchtower suggests that human be­ings under surveillance are constantly under threat of being stripped of their hu­manity, and of being seen as no more that a wild animal that can be hunted with­out rights, or even without mercy. In Giorgio Agamben’s terms, such a human is reduced to the condition of a “homo sacer,” or in a state of “bare life,” one that can be simply extinguished without legal, ethical, or humanitarian consequences.
  • By placing this work inside a gallery, the artist has disrupted the normal visual and bodily relationship that audiences have with works of art. The artist notes that inside a museum, audiences usually possess the authority of observa­tion and vision, but upon experiencing All Along the Watchtower, “suddenly they find themselves embraced by the evident shade of a non-visible apparatus of surveillance. The observers switch to the role of the observed animals in relation to the real but missing hunting stand—or they will feel like prisoners when they recognize the visual form as the shadow of a watchtower.”


  • Kaabi-Linke’s work relates to the way geography and politics inform the identity of both the individual and collective society. Her mixed-media installations question invisible mechanisms of control and moments of unseen violence. Made specifically for London, her recent works address the structures of power that thread colonialism together with and capitalism



1_All_Along_The_Watchtower_2014_Nadia_Kaabi-Linke_Photo_Credit_Bernard_Yenelouis.Please_note_these_images_are_of_an_earlier_edition_of_this_work_4ae0a5_mp 417640_236138696470471_2055796718_n watchtower01

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Some of her works: 

  1. Nadia Kaabi Linke, All Along The Watchtower, 2014, Photo © Bernard Yenelouis
  2. Nadia Kaabi Linke, Detail from Impunities London Originals, 2012
  3. Nadia Kaabi Linke, Tunisian Americans, 2012, Photo © Paolo Costa
  4. Nadia Kaabi Linke, Tunisian Americans (detail), 2012, Photo © Paolo Costa
  5. Nadia Kaabi Linke, Detail from Modular I, 2014
  6. Nadia Kaabi Linke, Photo © Paolo Costa

1_All_Along_The_Watchtower_2014_Nadia_Kaabi-Linke_Photo_Credit_Bernard_Yenelouis.Please_note_these_images_are_of_an_earlier_edition_of_this_work_4ae0a5_mp 2_Detail_from_Impunities_London_Originals_2012_Nadia_Kaabi-Linke_3a9f01_mp 3_Tunisian_Americans_2012_Nadia_Kaabi-Linke_Photo_Credit_Paolo_Costa._e27c28_mp Deatail_from_Tunisian_Americans_2012_Nadia_Kaabi-Linke_Photo_Credit_Paolo_Costa_fc10c0_ml Detail_from_Modular_I_2014_Nadia_Kaabi-Linke_9112bd_ml No_2012_Nadia_Kaabi-Linke_Photo_Credit_Paolo_Costa._97187e_ml

Iftikhar Dadi
By Ayesha Naveed

• Nalini Malani and Iftikhar Dadi, Bloodlines, 1997 (refabricated 2011 by workshop of Abdul Khaliq, Saddar, Karachi). Sequins and thread on cloth; two sections: 65 x 73 3/5 inches (165 x 187 cm) and 49 x 62 3/5 inches (124.5 x 159 cm). Courtesy of the artists and Green Cardamom

The works in the Nasher Museum’s current exhibition Lines of Control: Partition as a Productive Space all tell a story, although it is a story whose foundations were laid before many of the artists were born. The exhibition evolved from a project that brought together works by contemporary artists who had been affected in some way by the partitioning of India in 1947. This event essentially created two countries: Pakistan and India. This division was dictated by British powers who were, at that point, departing their Indian colony. The colonists were perhaps not best equipped for determining the fates of these peoples; the separation of families, communities, and other groups that resulted has had a lasting effect on the politics and lives of those in this area. While many of the artists whose works are included in Lines of Control may be too young to remember the 1947 Partition, they have experienced its consequences, and it is these stories that they are able to tell through their art


• Bloodlines, a collaboration between the Indian artist Nalini Malani and the Pakistani Iftikhar Dadi, is both old and new. The work was conceived by the artists, and made by embroiderers in Karachi initially in 1997. It is perhaps the first collaborative work between artists from both countries. For Lines of Control it has been realized again by Mr. Abdul Khaliq and his team in Karachi.

The individual panels, with their flat panels of coloured sequins, mimic the mapping process that defines borders, supposedly with detached objectivity. However, the red border lines, drawn by the Radcliffe commission as part of the de-colonization process, run across this field of gold as arbitrary lines of blood. The artists describe the dense golden sequins as “enacting an allegory of the individual, affirming its uniqueness and their diversity, yet also suggesting that their coming together illuminates and enriches the entire region without limit”.


• ‘Bloodlines is a visually stunning artwork of intricate detail developed by Indian artist Nalini Malani and Pakistani artist Iftikhar Dadi. It is possibly the first collaborative work between artists from the two countries. It was created in 1997 to mark the 50th anniversary of the partition of India. Using gold, crimson and blue sequins the panels map the Radcliffe lines, which defined the 1947 borders of Pakistan.

• The Lines of Control symposium is organized with the exhibition Lines of Control: Partition as a Productive Space at Cornell University’s Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. The project was initiated by Green Cardamom, a London-based nonprofit arts organization, in 2005, and is an exhibition-led inquiry into the formative and ongoing dilemmas of the nation-state in the modern and contemporary era. It investigates the notion of partition- and border-making practices, where nations are formed through forging new identities, producing new histories, reconfiguring memories, and the patrolling of physical and psychological borders.


• Iftikhar Dadi’s research examines art as a global and networked practice from the late nineteenth century to the present. He engages with theorizations of modernity, contemporaneity, and postcoloniality to analyze the modern and contemporary art of Asia, the Middle East, and their diasporas. Another research interest is his study of media, crafts, and popular culture with reference to ongoing socio-aesthetic transformations in South Asia, seeking to understand how emergent urban publics forge new avenues of civic participation.


• It has been often observed that the Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 did not get fully commemorated in public imagination, say, through a museum, a ritual or some kind of dialogue that would acknowledge and memorialize the experiences of the people who were unsettled by this act that left nearly 3 million dead and 15 million displaced. “Lines of Control,” curated by Iftikhar Dadi and Hammad Nassar at Cornell University’s Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, was a recent exhibition that gathered over 40 works in varied media that dwell on the theme of borders, particularly the lines that got drawn as colonial empires physically receded in the last century. As suggested by its title, the India-Pakistan Partition was the provocateur for this show, but the exhibition cast a wider span, gathering artists from Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe. Navigating the galleries of the Johnson Museum, one was overwhelmed by how divisiveness has been normalized as a geographical and political fact of our times. But one was more struck by the exhibited artists’ persistence in embracing the complexities inherent in border experiences — complexities that cannot be erased or simply wished away by the drawing of neat lines marking national territories. What are the epistemological consequences of the act of drawing borders and lines of control? And where do human experiences of borders sit in a world that in academic parlance is increasingly punctuated with the prefix ‘post’ (-colonial, -modern, -industrial, -national, -digital, -human)? The exhibition provocatively raised these questions.


• Iftikhar Dadi is an artist and art historian broadly interested in the relation between art practice in the contexts of globalization, urbanization, and mediatization. He has authored numerous scholarly works, including the recent book Modernism and the Art of Muslim South Asia. Curatorial activities include Lines of Control at Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art and Cornell’s Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, and Unpacking Europe at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. As an artist, Dadi works collaboratively with Elizabeth Dadi. Their work investigates the salience of popular urban and media cultures in the construction of memory, borders, and identity in contemporary globalization.


• Lines of Control: Partition as a Productive Space, Nasher Museum of Art, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, 2013-14. This is another show at once tangential to map art and yet concerned with an essential map element: lines of control. The lines of control in this case are mostly borders through contested areas (India/Pakistan, Israel/Palestine, Mexico/US, and so on). Green Cardamom brought together more than thirty contemporary artists (from Francis Alÿs to Muhammad Zeeshan) and a host of other contributors (including Iftikhar Dadi and Irit Rogoff) to mount a ceaselessly stimulating exhibition, first in 2012 at Cornell and then in 2013-14 at Duke. It spawned a 240-page full-color catalogue. A great stimulating show and a terrific catalogue






MUHANNED CADER: Flag I and Flag II (2010) – RABIA KHAN.


1. Born in 1966 Colombo, Sri Lanka.

2. He went on to study at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, USA where he earned his BA in 1994.

3. His more recent solo shows include Casting Light at the Saskia Fernando Gallery, Colombo 2010 and Drawing Sculpture at Barefoot Gallery, Colombo 2008.

4. His work has been featured at the 1st Singapore Biennale, 6th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT) at Queensland Art Gallery in Brisbane, Australia; Burger Collection, Hong Kong, and at the Herbert Johnson Museum at Cornell University, New York, in 2012. Cader currently lives and works in Colombo, Sri Lanka, and Oxford, UK.

5. He has had many solo shows from 1995 – 2010 and group exhibitions from 1992 – 2012. The last one being; Lines of Control, curated by Hammad Nasar, Iftikhar Dadi & Ellen Avril.

6. This exhibition was about the sudden disturbance of the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan and other partitioned areas like North and South Korea, Sudan and South Sudan, Israel and Palestine etc.

7. Partitions are productive and non productive, both. Productive in the sense that they produce new identities, new borderlines, own homeland, memories and history. You are free to do whatever you like. You can practice your religion freely. But many people are not in favor of the partition maybe because they don’t want to leave their land on which they’ve been living for ages.

8. 35 artists presented their work in this exhibition in the Johnson Museum of Art.

9. Cader’s Flag I and Flag II were exhibited in this exhibition, produced in 2010 and exhibited for the first time ever.

These two paintings of the flags are the Sri Lankan and Scottish coastal landscapes (horizontal paintings). In my opinion the paintings are successful because of the composition that he has worked with. Flag I and Flag II represent earth (land), sky and the sea (water). The artwork looks like a bad picture until you have a closer look at it with dedication. The land running across the picture is the size of an international flag. In this he has tried to show the relation between territory and random inscription under the sign of nation.

10. The artist states: “Since graduating, my art has become more serious. Yes, my work is still in a period of experimentation. Overall, I’m interested in simplifying my work. I’ve moved into more shapes and forms, and I’m more interested in relationships between shape and color, which are both influenced by my surroundings—especially the trees and plants and the architecture. Mainly, I’m exploring shapes and colors, and tensions and confusion—the feelings I have here about Sri Lanka, the war, and economic instability. I like to work with oils and collages, and sometimes I do sculpture with junk and found wood, particularly skids used for shipping.” http://www.artdesigncafe.com/muhanned-cader-1997

Lines of Control: ‘Partition as a Productive Space’ – HAFSA SAKARIA
Amar Kanwar Still from The Trilogy: A Season Outside (1997)

It has been often observed that the Partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 did not get fully commemorated in public imagination, say, through a museum, a ritual or some kind of dialogue that would acknowledge and memorialize the experiences of the people who were unsettled by this act that left nearly 3 million dead and 15 million displaced. “Lines of Control,” curated by Iftikhar Dadi and Hammad Nassar at Cornell University’s Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, was a recent exhibition that gathered over 40 works in varied media that dwell on the theme of borders, particularly the lines that got drawn as colonial empires physically receded in the last century. As suggested by its title, the India-Pakistan Partition was the provocateur for this show, but the exhibition cast a wider span, gathering artists from Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Europe. Navigating the galleries of the Johnson Museum, one was overwhelmed by how divisiveness has been normalized as a geographical and political fact of our times. But one was more struck by the exhibited artists’ persistence in embracing the complexities inherent in border experiences — complexities that cannot be erased or simply wished away by the drawing of neat lines marking national territories.

Lines of Control has been an ambitious undertaking that has effectively expanded discussions of partitions, borders, and lines of control beyond singular geographical locations. This is a crucial move that inaugurates new questions and lines of thought in the study of cultural, technological, and political phenomena and experiences in our times. The exhibition’s catalogue is a vital text that weaves together scholarly and artistic thought on borders and modern nations from varied locations and contexts

Curator :
Co-organized by Green Cardamom and the Johnson Museum, the exhibition is curated by Hammad Nasar, Iftikhar Dadi, and Ellen Avril, with assistance from Nada Raza.

Artist: Amar Kanwar
Amar Kanwar lives and works in New Delhi, India. He has exhibited internationally in a fine art context and through film festivals. He has been included in both Documenta XI (2002) and XII (2007), and has exhibited in group and solo exhibitions in Europe, America and India, and was presented at the Sydney Biennale in 2006. A Season Outside won The Golden Conch award at the 5th Mumbai International Documentary Film Festival, 1998, and The Golden Gate award at the 42nd San Francisco International Film Festival 1999.

Amar Kanwar’s documentary-style film ”A Season Outside” (1997) — a hit at Documenta XI — opens with the nightly closing of gates at a busy checkpoint on the border of India and Pakistan. Passage between the two countries, strictly monitored by day, is now forbidden. The gate-shutting is occasion for a preening ritual display of mutual hostility by Indian and Pakistani soldiers. The performance is met with applause by crowds on both sides.

Mr. Kanwar follows the shots of choreographed machismo with others that give a sense of the grinding personal toll such antagonism takes. A man on one side of the border seems to be anxiously trying to communicate to someone on the other side, and finally wanders away. In a long sequence that begins with a close-up of moving feet, men approach each other from either side of a painted white strip on the ground and meet in what look like push-and-shove encounters. In fact, they are workmen passing staggeringly heavy bundles to each other over a line they cannot cross.
The border was established with the partition of India and Pakistan more than half a century ago, in a tactical maneuver that Mohandas Gandhi correctly feared would lead to carnage.
Gandhi, although he never appears, is the real protagonist in a film that is less about specific politics than about the omnipresence of aggression in nature and culture. Images of it flash across Mr. Kanwar’s camera lens: police beat protesters; men cheer on two head-butting rams; a child pushes a younger child down in the street; birds nip at a stray puppy.
All of this is accompanied by a ruminative voice-over — which I found hard to hear clearly at Blum — spoken by Mr. Kanwar. In it he traces the psychological effects of violence on his own family, and he records his own evolving attitude toward Gandhi’s conviction that pacifism is not passivity, but intervention; that peace is not something you hope for, but something you make.
The focus on Gandhi, who is the subject of Mr. Kanwar’s recent short film ”To Remember” (2003), is particularly apt when the leader’s name is being expunged from history books by a Hindu nationalist government in India, and when the threat of nuclear war is ever-present on both sides of the India-Pakistan border.

Amar Kanwar’s trilogy of films focuses on the relationship between India and Pakistan, nations that were established through postcolonial independence and their separation from each other at the stroke of midnight on August 14, 1947 (Pakistan celebrates its independence on the earlier day, India on the later). The sectarian division that continues in the fraught relationship between them is detailed vividly in Kanwar’s A Season Outside (1997), which examines the “12-inch mythical line” marking the border between the two nations at the Punjabi village of Wagah. Ritualized displays of military bravado are performed daily at this site of standoff, and made more poignant by the onerous physical labor of transferring goods from Indian to Pakistani hands across the same divide.


Still from The Trilogy: A Season Outside (1997)

Being Singular Plural – ZOYA NADEEM
Kabir Mohanty

March 2–June 6, 2012
Being Singular Plural offers visitors the unique opportunity to encounter recent and new film, video, and sound-based works by seven of the most innovative and visionary contemporary artists, filmmakers, and media practitioners living and working in India today: Shumona Goel, Shai Heredia, Sonal Jain, Vikram Joglekar, Amar Kanwar, Mriganka Madhukaillya, and Kabir Mohanty. The works included in this presentation reveal the quiet principles of practice, process, and perception, while being grounded in a vital social consciousness. This timely and discourse-defining exhibition is oriented toward coproducing new work, facilitating research, and assembling a community of practitioners.

Kabir Mohanty
the kernel is a fact
GallerySKE, Bangalore
20 April – 5 June 2010

Being Singular Plural: Moving Images from India
Deutsche+Guggenheim, Berlin
26 June – 10 October 2010

After having been shown by Bangalore’s GallerySKE, Kabir Mohanty’s unusual installation titled In Memory along with his two-part video, Song for an ancient land are being shown at the newly opened Deutsche+Guggenheim gallery in Berlin. In Memory uses an 8 x 6 foot ‘foley pit’ filled with primordial-looking grassy soil, stone slabs, layered like slates formed over millennia and pebbles generally found on river beds where ancient human and non-human civilizations evolved. Along with such earthily sensuous objects, the 500-kilogram, ground-level ‘foley pit’ is connected with live microphones and recorded tracks, pressure sensors, movement sensors, wires and active audio monitors. It invites the viewer to walk on it and get sounds of her or his walk recorded amidst the evocation of a pre-recorded ‘maze’, or the ‘forests’ of sounds as the artist calls it.

Installation view of In Memory (detail)

The sounds in Kabir Mohanty’s works – both on ‘screen’ (videos, Song for an ancient land, for instance) and on ‘soil’ (In Memory installation) are as muted as ancient, suggesting earth, waiting to be dug up for archaeology, to explore forests of sound in their internal luminosity. As we know, the hierarchy of sounds is as domineering as any other social, cultural or political hierarchy. I believe it is the sounds of subalterneity that Mohanty would like us to hear; the sounds of the weak and the suppressed that the stronger and louder sounds stop us from hearing; from within history, and without. In the present installation, Mohanty seems to be giving ‘voices’ to those suppressed ‘sounds’, the microtones. In a sense, such polyphony also confirms his belief in human beings being ‘individually multiple.’ (“We are individually multiple,” Kabir Mohanty quoted in the beginning of Suketu Mehta’s book Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, 2004)

For the past ten years, Mohanty has been practicing video-making after working on celluloid for over a decade. Within his spatial and temporal ‘conscience’, Mohanty’s film and video making practice acquires an enhanced meaning. Unlike filmmaking practice that engages him as director of an ensemble form with actors, video provides him an opportunity to do what he calls ‘solo’ work, something he has been contemplating for many years. In fact, for him, both these practices are related in many ways and not mutually exclusive. As he believes, the great work with the moving image, film or video, fervently resists its narrowing, and it is fundamentally not illustrative.


‘Measures of Distance’ – Mona Hatoum (1988)
By Maha Minhaj

*Feminism *Gender *Identity *Sexuality *Sense of belonging *Exile

Video link: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x31gw4_measures-of-distance-mona-hatoum_creation
IV. Measures of Distance: A Desiring Production
Raw, violent, confrontational, Hatoum’s early work reveals a need of the exiled to prostrate herself before the brute laws of exile’s symbolic order. And yet, even the symbolic order of exile is not sealed into completion; it has its cracks and fissures, interstitial, imaginary spaces that Hatoum works generatively within. In Imagining Desire, conceptual artist Mary Kelley calls attention to the ways in which symbolic formations such as gender identity and nation can reveal, in their most virulent displays, their potential for failure: “The nation, like gender, has a psychic border, and a ‘display’ of nationalism can also fail to cover the frame of a shield that has lost not only its economic metal but also its diplomatic sheen.” [54] InThe Four Fundamental Concepts, Lacan argues that desire is a product of gaps in the symbolic order. Describing the “interval intersecting the signifiers,” Lacan writes: “It is there that what we call desire crawls, slips, escapes, like the ferret.” [55]
Hatoum’s 1988 video piece Measures of Distance (figure 5) draws upon exile’s configuration of proximity and distance to open up a space in which it is possible to expose the cracks and fissures in the patriarchal symbolic order—displayed to extremity in times of war—and to represent an imaginary relation that allows for a nuanced depiction of the mother’s desire. It is in the intersection between the signifiers of war and those of patriarchal authority that the specificity of feminine desire emerges into visibility. In this fifteen-minute video Hatoum intersperses film footage and photographs of her mother taking a shower, as well Hatoum’s voice translating her mother’s letters into English, recorded phone conversations between mother and daughter in Arabic, and the Arabic script of her mother’s letters moving across the screen. At one point, the mother discusses the possessive anger the photographs provoked in Hatoum’s father. Since he considers her his property, future collaborations must be kept secret.
The materialized letters on the screen are an important choice; they suggest Measures of Distance is a reflective step back from the earlier pieces’ insistent separation of the body and language. Measures of Distance marks a transition from the demand to represent herself as an exiled, isolated, fundamentally physical other to the desire to represent the complex material and linguistic relation to another’s exile—her mother’s—across multiple impediments and mediations. The harsh and compelling addresses to the viewer in the earlier pieces have been tempered into tender responses to the mother’s loving address. Hatoum compels viewers to watch but does not demand that they witness. With its eloquent beauty remarkably untainted by sentimentality, Hatoum witnesses the patterns of distance and returns within her family’s and country’s multiple losses by rendering them. The Arabic script of her mother’s letters moves across the screen and is both a visual barrier to and a visual means of seeing the maternal body as a signifier of home and security. Lynn Zelevansky writes that “[t]he handwriting looks like barbed wire, acting as a fence or a divider, signifying remoteness.” [56] But the Arabic letters are also the means through which to see, hear, and communicate with her mother. The script’s proximity to the representations of the mother’s body reveals that despite exile’s cruel impediments the language of the mother tongue isn’t irrevocably distanced.
These letters, as English speakers will know from the translated voiceovers, address a particular reader — “My Dear Mona.” The multiple ways Hatoum represents the letters — aurally, materially, and in two languages — signifies multiple means of expression, despite or because of exile’s impediments. And the way the film foregrounds, rather than hides, Hatoum’s presence through the cuts and splices of the visual and aural scenes gives ground to the possibility of response. The desire to represent her mother desiring her through multiple representations of communication juxtaposed with her mother’s private desires, signified by the photographs of her in the bath, lovingly fills in the absences and gaps of the film. Hatoum asks her viewers to see, read, and hear her mother’s presence and absence in her life through the gaps and fissures exile and patriarchy have imposed, underscoring Caruth’s point that trauma “denies our facile empathy and rush to comprehension, and demands a different kind of listening and a different speaking.” [57]
The different kind of understanding the trauma of exile requires opens up new ways of seeing and representing the mother’s sexuality. While Hatoum represents the continual loss and retrieval of the mother, and aesthetically plays with representations of her presence and absence, there isn’t a repression of the phallic signifier—the signifier of the mother’s desire—as there in the child’s “fort da” game as analyzed by Freud in Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Hatoum represents her desire to represent her mother’s desire while simultaneously representing the difficulties of that negotiation. An innovative imaginary has shifted into emergence. In Renee Beart’s words, “the figure [Hatoum] presents is likewise a desiring subject, a desiring mother.” [58]
When discussing Measures of Distance, Ella Shoat and Robert Stam write of the intimacy exile can offer: “Paradoxically, the exile’s distance from the Middle East authorizes the exposure of intimacy…mother and daughter are together again in the space of the text.” [59] Perhaps because exile enforces a reticence to represent with certainty, Hatoum manages to represent the mother outside of normally repressive symbolizations. Baert remarks on the video’s original contribution to the feminist imaginary:
What is represented in these works is neither an idealization of the mother, nor a merging with her, not an evacuation of the maternal site, nor an entrapment in the feminine position of abjection or lack, nor a privileging of the pre-Oedipal extralinguistic maternal terrain, nor an l’écriture feminine. [60]
While the earlier pieces represent the displacement and separation of exile as uncrossable physical boundaries that violently impedes expression, inMeasures of Distance Hatoum focuses on the displacements and separations of time and language. By aesthetically directing subjective experiences of them, Hatoum employs impasses as partial means to expression and connection. While the earlier pieces render the exiled self as a primarily physical other, Measures of Distance reveals the way that otherness provides access to another’s subjectivity as it appears within and through the intersections of history and language. This access to another asserts the possibility of “recreating identity in the liminal zone of exile.” [61]
Measures of Distance represents what the early pieces work toward: ethical singularity. As Zelevansky writes,
…Hatoum’s mother dreams of a time when the war will end and her daughter will return to Beirut, where they will make videotapes and take photographs together. She addresses her daughter, ‘My dear Mona, love of my heart. How I long to hold you in my arms, even for a minute.’ [62]
Both mother and daughter express a desire for responsive, responsible, caring, and particular experience within “something like normality,” a key component of ethical singularity, according to Spivak. [63] Furthermore, her mother’s wish to make videotapes and take photographs together expresses a desire to “reveal and reveal, concealing nothing.” [64] Attending to the “body” of Hatoum’s work, I think viewers are asked to desire the links between a feminist imaginary and ethics Measures of Distance—its complicated and lyrical tissue of desire and its impediments, its historical and personal particularity—offers, because the other pieces distance us so far from it.
54. Mary Kelly, Imaging Desire, 211 (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 1996).
55. Lacan, Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis, ed. Jacques-Alain Miller, trans. Alan Sheridan, 9 (New York: Norton, 1978).
56. Lynn Zelevansky, Sense and Sensibility: Women Artists and Minimalism in the Nineties, 16 (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1994).
57. Caruth, Unclaimed Experience, 52
58. Renee Baert, “Desiring Daughters,” Screen 34:2 (Summer 1993): 111.
59. Ella Shoat and Roger Stam, Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the Media, 521 (New York and London: Routledge, 1996).
60. Baert, 114.
61. Shoat and Stam, 321.
62. Zelevansky, Sense and Sensibility, 17.
63. Spivak, “Translator’s Preface,” xxv.
64. Ibid.

Mona Hatoum by Janine Antoni (Interview)
“I met Mona Hatoum in December 1994 when we were installing our work, side by side, at the Reina Sophia in Madrid. The exhibition was called Cocido y Crudo, “The Raw and the Cooked.” Mona was showing Corps Étranger, a video made with a medical camera that had been threaded in and out of her orifices and along her body’s surface. I was showing Slumber, a performance where at night I slept in the museum’s gallery, and in the day I weaved, from strips of my nightgown, the pattern of my rapid eye movements into an endless blanket.
The Reina Sophia, a former hospital, was a beautiful and scary place. Each night in the old building I could hear many sounds—as if the spirits were wandering around its long halls. Even the guards who passed through my room every hour told me they were afraid of a ghost named Ataulfo. It wasn’t easy to sleep. And every morning at six o’clock I would jump out of my skin, waking to the lights and sound of Mona’s video automatically turning on.
Since then, Mona and I have often appeared, side by side, in many exhibitions. Most recently, we spent a month together at the only active Shaker community in Sabbath Day Lake, Maine. This is where I finally got close to Mona; but I felt I knew her back in Spain, when all day long I weaved while listening to the pulse of her body.
Mona Hatoum I dislike interviews. I’m often asked the same question: What in your work comes from your own culture? As if I have a recipe and I can actually isolate the Arab ingredient, the woman ingredient, the Palestinian ingredient. People often expect tidy definitions of otherness, as if identity is something fixed and easily definable.
Janine Antoni Do you think those kinds of questions have made us overly self-conscious about how we represent ourselves and its effect on the work?
MH Yeah, if you come from an embattled background there is often an expectation that your work should somehow articulate the struggle or represent the voice of the people. That’s a tall order really. I find myself often wanting to contradict those expectations.
JA Everyone seems eager to define you. When I was looking at your catalogue and the articles written about you, I was struck by a certain consistency. Three articles started as follows: “Lebanese-born artist, Mona Hatoum”; “Hatoum was born into a family of Palestinian refugees”; “Mona Hatoum is a woman, a Palestinian, a native of Beirut…”
MH It’s more the inconsistencies that bother me, like when people refer to me as Lebanese when I am not. Although I was born in Lebanon, my family is Palestinian. And like the majority of Palestinians who became exiles in Lebanon after 1948, they were never able to obtain Lebanese identity cards. It was one way of discouraging them from integrating into the Lebanese situation. Instead, and for reasons that I won’t go into, my family became naturalized British, so I’ve had a British passport since I was born. I grew up in Beirut in a family that had suffered a tremendous loss and existed with a sense of dislocation. When I went to London in 1975 for what was meant to be a brief visit, I got stranded there because the war broke out in Lebanon, and that created another kind of dislocation. How that manifests itself in my work is as a sense of disjunction. For instance, in a work like Light Sentence, the movement of the light bulb causes the shadows of the wire mesh lockers to be in perpetual motion, which creates a very unsettling feeling. When you enter the space you have the impression that the whole room is swaying and you have the disturbing feeling that the ground is shifting under your feet. This is an environment in constant flux—no single point of view, no solid frame of reference. There is a sense of instability and restlessness in the work. This is the way in which the work is informed by my background. On the other hand, I have now spent half of my life living in the West, so when I speak of works like Light Sentence, Quarters and Current Disturbance as making a reference to some kind of institutional violence, I am speaking of encountering architectural and institutional structures in Western urban environments that are about the regimentation of individuals, fixing them in space and putting them under surveillance. What I am trying to say here is that the concerns in my work are as much about the facts of my origins as they are a reflection on or an insight into the Western institutional and power structures I have found myself existing in for the last 20-odd years.
JA What makes one claim one history and not another? I am from the Bahamas but was educated in the US as you were in London. Isn’t Minimalism as much a part of our history as where we are from?
MH Precisely, I was completely taken in by Minimal and Conceptual Art when I was on my first degree course. Going to University afterwards, which was my first encounter with a large bureaucratic institution, I became involved in analyzing power structures, first in relation to feminism, and then in wider terms as in the relationship between the Third World and the West. This led me to making confrontational, issue-based performance works which were fueled by anger and a sense of urgency. Later, when I got into the area of installation and object making, I wouldn’t say I went back to a minimal aesthetic as such, it was more a kind of reductive approach, if you like, where the forms can be seen as abstract aesthetic structures, but can also be recognized as cages, lockers, chairs, beds… The work therefore becomes full of associations and meaning—a reflection on the social environment we inhabit. Unlike minimal objects, they are not self-referential.
JA In the show at the New Museum I was struck by the difference between the formal aspects of your later sculptures and an earlier piece like Measures of Distance. It is a piece that haunted me ever since I saw it a couple of years ago. This work is very personal and yet its form is illusive. You can’t quite get at it. Visually you are looking through layers of information: first, the handwritten letters in Arabic, and finally, the figure of your mother; you never quite see the nude image of your mother clearly. The sound works in the same way. I felt like I was straining to eavesdrop on a private conversation. The video doesn’t have the direct quality that those later pieces have.
MH Yeah, Measures of Distance is quite a significant work for me. I see it as the culmination and conclusion of all the early narrative and issue-based work. For years I was trying to make general and objective statements about the state of the world. With Measures of Distance I made a conscious decision to delve into the personal—however complex, confused, and contradictory the material I was dealing with was. During a visit to Beirut in 1981, I had taken a dozen slides of my mother taking a shower. At the time, feminism had so problematized the issue of representation of women that images of women vacated the frame, they became absent. It was quite depressing. For a few years I agonized over whether I should use these images of my mother in my work. I didn’t make the work in its final form until 1988, but in between I used the material in a performance work. Anyway, once I made the work I found that it spoke of the complexities of exile, displacement, the sense of loss and separation caused by war. In other words, it contextualized the image, or this person, “my mother,” within a social-political context.
JA I can relate to your battle about whether to work with those images with your mother, because I had similar questions when I started to work with my parents. I suddenly realized that my baggage had somehow come from them and to work with them meant asking them to confront these issues. At a certain point I had to ask myself whether it was my right to ask this of them and to expose them in this way. I was wondering whether the fogginess ofMeasures of Distance reflects a kind of ambivalence about exposing something quite intimate about your relationship with your mother. As well as an attempt to express the complexity by not allowing it to settle down anywhere.
MH Yeah, sort of wading through a mess of meaning.
JA Which you do so beautifully, visually.
MH Well, I wanted to explore the complexities through the juxtaposition of several formal and visual elements that create paradoxical layers of meaning. I wanted every frame to speak of closeness and distance. You have the close-up images of my mother’s naked body, which echo the intimacy of the exchange between us, overlaid by her letters which are supposed to be a means of communication, yet at the same time, they prevent complete access to the image. People saw the Arabic writing as barbed wire.
JA Or a veil.
MH That’s right. I structured the work around my mother’s letters, because letters imply distance yet they are dealing with very intimate questions. And you’ve got our animated voices speaking in Arabic and laughing, which is contradicted by the sadness of my voice, reading my mother’s letters, translated into English.
JA I love how your questions are very confrontational, and yet she keeps saying, “My dear Mona, the love of my heart.”
MH Right, she uses even more flowery expressions that have no equivalent in the English language. When I made Measures of Distance it felt like I had unloaded a burden off my back. I felt afterwards that I could get on with other kinds of work, where every work did not necessarily have to tell the whole story, where I could just deal with one little aspect of my experience. That’s when I started making installation work.
JA If we look at your body of work at the New Museum, the later work becomes much more open. The political is there but it has changed forms. Rather than being topical, it is experimental. Especially in the installations where the viewers find themselves in an uncomfortable position—from a position of instability, their response seems to yield the meaning.
MH In the early performance work I was in a sense demonstrating or delivering a message to the viewer. With the installation work, I wanted to implicate the viewer in a phenomenological situation where the experience is more physical and direct. I wanted the visual aspect of the work to engage the viewer in a physical, sensual, maybe even emotional way; the associations and search for meaning come after that. And although the title might direct your attention to one aspect of the work, I hope the work remains open enough to allow different interpretations. A woman here at the New Museum said that the light bulbs fading on and off in Current Disturbance made her think of a sexual orgasm. How beautiful! But, she said, then she remembered that my work is supposed to be political and had to think about the lights in the cages as representing people in prison. So I think that’s a very good example. There is no single interpretation, which is why I always find it problematic when museums and galleries want to put up an explanatory text on the wall. It fixes the meaning and limits the reading of the work and doesn’t allow the viewer to have this very expansive imaginative interpretation of their own which reflects on their experience.
JA What role do you want your art to play and what role do you feel the art world has cast you in?
MH I want the work in the first instance to have a strong formal presence, and through the physical experience to activate a psychological and emotional response. In a very general sense I want to create a situation where reality itself becomes a questionable point. Where one has to reassess their assumptions and their relationship to things around them. A kind of self-examination and an examination of the power structures that control us: Am I the jailed or the jailer? The oppressed or the oppressor? Or both. I want the work to complicate these positions and offer an ambiguity and ambivalence rather than concrete and sure answers. An object from a distance might look like a carpet made out of lush velvet, but when you approach it you realize it’s made out of stainless steel pins which turns it into a threatening and cold object rather than an inviting one. It’s not what it promises to be. So it makes you question the solidity of the ground you walk on, which is also the basis on which your attitudes and beliefs lie. When my work shifted from the obviously political, rhetorical attitude into bringing political ideas to bear through the formal and the aesthetic, the work became more of an open system. Since then I have been resisting attempts by institutions to fix the meaning in my work by wanting to include it in very narrowly defined theme shows.
JA Well, in this climate of political correctness, people really don’t know what to do with you if you don’t fulfill certain stereotypes. Do you think that has pushed us, as artists, into making work that refuses to be defined in that way? That it is a natural response to shy away from reenforcing stereotypes. Knowing it’s much more complicated than that.
MH I’ve always had quite a rebellious and contrary attitude. The more I feel I am being pushed into a mold, the more I feel like going in the opposite direction. Like when I made a work called Jardin Public. I discovered that etymologically the words “public” and “pubic” come from the same source. I used a wrought iron chair similar to those you see in public gardens in Paris—I gave it a French title to emphasize this association. And I implanted pubic hair in a triangular shape on the seat like grass growing out of the holes. I enjoyed the surreal aspect of this work. By the way, my point of entry into the art world was through Surrealism—in fact the first art book I ever bought was on Magritte. So this work was quite humorous and light-hearted; but at the same time you could read it as a comment on the fact that women’s genitalia are always on public display. A number of people were surprised by this work. I realized that people didn’t expect to see humor in my work.
JA When you were talking about people wanting you to speak from the margins, as an outsider, as the other, it reminded me of the artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres trying to locate himself at the center. He took a form which was recognizably art, in the high art sense of the word, and slid his content underneath or inside of this form. People would accept his pieces initially and then have to deal with what they were really about.
MH With the early performances, I saw myself as a marginal person intervening from within the margins of the art world, and it seemed logical to use performance as a critique of the establishment. After a while I was becoming dissatisfied with the obviously rhetorical attitude and I wasn’t sure any more whether the work I was doing was really what I wanted to do or the result of internalizing other people’s expectations and the fact that I had been molded in the role of political artist. It’s quite a thin line. I wanted to make work that privileges the material, format, visual aspect of art making and try to articulate the political through the aesthetics of the work. I like Gonzalez-Torres’ attitude because his work is both aesthetic and political. What I admire most about his work is that it looks very simple, yet it deals with issues of vulnerability of the body, early death issues etc., but doing it all through the language of art.
JA So let’s talk about “the body.” We both get lumped into this category. Could you speak about the specific role of the body in your works. In a lot of your pieces the body is physically absent but implicitly present, or the body in question is really that of the viewer. I’m interested in the way you make the viewer feel physically in an installation or in front of an object.
MH The body became an issue for me when I was a student in the late ’70s at the Slade School, which is part of London University College. It was a very cool environment which favored intellectual inquiry. But I had this distinct feeling that people around me were like disembodied intellects, and it was in opposition to this kind of attitude that I started focusing intensely on the body, first using its products and processes as material for the work, and later using it as a metaphor for society—the social body. Without going into too much detail here, it seemed that anything I wanted to work with at the time was faced with restrictions and even censorship. I was perceived as this isolated incident, a person coming from nowhere and trying to disrupt a respectable intellectual environment. Those same issues that I was trying to discuss in my work at the time have become such common currency in the art world now—I mean in a very general sense the focus on the body. By the late ‘80s I wanted to take my body, the body of the performer, out of the work. I wanted the viewer’s body to replace mine by interacting directly with the work. My work always constructed with the viewer in mind. The viewer is somehow implicated or even visually or psychologically entrapped in some of the installations. The sculptures based on furniture are very much about the body too, they encourage the viewer to mentally project themselves onto the objects… “
—Janine Antoni exhibits her work both nationally and internationally. Her work has appeared in the Whitney Biennial, the Venice Biennial, The Guggenheim Museum SoHo’s Hugo Boss Prize 1996, and at the Guggenheim Museum New York’s Rrose is a Rrose is a Rrose exhibition in 1997. She is a recipient of The Irish Museum of Modern Art’s Glen Dimplex Award, and in 1998 her video installation Swoon will be on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Born in Freeport, Bahamas, Janine Antoni now lives in New York


Mona Hatoum (born 1952 in Beirut, Lebanon) is a video artist and installation artist of Palestinian origin, who lives in London. Mona Hatoum was born in Beirut, Lebanon to Palestinian parents in 1952. Although born in Lebanon, Hatoum does not identify as Lebanese. Mona Hatoum explores a variety of different subject matter via different theoretical frameworks. Her work can be interpreted as a description of the body, as a commentary on politics, and on gender and difference as she explores the dangers and confines of the domestic world. Her work can also be interpreted through the concept of space as her sculpture and installation work depend on the viewer to inhabit the surrounding space to complete the effect. There are always multiple readings to her work.
Impenetrable, 2009. Steel and nylon monofilament, 118 1/8 x 118 1/8 x 118 1/8 inches (300 x 300 x 300 cm), edition 3/3. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

A delicate looking installation reveals its alter ego as a dangerous and impenetrable, barbed wire fenced, detached and alienated space. From a distance, Impenetrable appears to be an ethereal cube levitating in the gallery. When approached, the work reveals a menacing aspect: the cube is composed of hundreds of barbed wire rods dangling from fishing wire. This installation not only occupies physical space, it also clearly defines and safeguards that space, which in turn becomes fencing itself and thus impenetrable. Like many of Mona Hatoum’s installations since the early 1990s, Impenetrable takes the form of a grid. Yet the austere geometric form, which recalls Minimalist sculpture, also harbors a psychological charge. The steel latticework appears to be as delicate as it is threatening, and the barbed wire evokes architectural forms—fences, prisons, camps—designed both to confine and repel. Such images are evocative of conflict, violence, and state authority, and Hatoum’s work is often discussed in relation to her own experience as a Palestinian exile. Still, the artist herself suggests that the significance of her work extends beyond biographical references: “I find it more exciting when a work reverberates with several meanings and paradoxes and contradictions.” Hatoum’s work points to a world of barbarism and cruelty, barring its viewers from stepping aside into the disembodied ideal formal realm that some might seek in art. Mona’s cube ask a formalist structure to refer to the reality of conflict and imprisonment.

Some of Mona Hatoum’s work includes a room of swings bearing street maps of thirty five cities and Light Sentence, a room full of empty wire lockers with a light bulb swinging in the centre, causing the shadows on the walls to sway and shift in an unsettling way.



Farehah Aftab Khalil Shaikh

Lines of Control: Partition as a Productive Space



  • The exhibition at Cornell University’s Herbert F. Johnson Museum has spread the geographic scope that is beyond the South Asian subcontinent, comprising over 45 works by more than 30 artists from South Korea to the US via Sri Lanka, Syria, Tunisia, Sudan, Palestine, Israel, the Netherlands, and Ireland alongside the starting point of works from Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan
  • (http://www.academia.edu/8629715/Lines_of_Control_Partition_as_a_Productive_Space)





  • Campbell combines the elements of documentary and fiction in order to assess both the subject matter and the mode of communicating it. Campbell uses found footages, photographic and film material from various mediated historical documentaries  and writings about Devlin. The film Bernadette is meticulously structured and is a remarkable portrait of personality. It oscillates between the documentary, subjective narration and critical reflection. As Campbell himself explains, “what I produced can only ever be a selection of these representations, via my own obsessions and my desire to make winning art of her.”
  • (http://arttattler.com/archiveduncancampbell.html)


  • Duncan Campbell says, “Documentary is a peculiar form of fiction. It has the appearance of verity grounded in many of the same formal conventions of fiction—narrative drive, linear plot, and closure. Yet, the relationship between author/subject/audience is rarely investigated in the same way as it is in meta-fiction. I want to faithfully represent Devlin, to do justice to her legacy. Yet what I am working with, are already mediated images and writings about her. What I produce can only ever be a selection of these representations, via my own obsessions and my desire to make engaging art of her. My film is an admission of limitation, but I have too much respect for Devlin for it to be an expression of nihilism or irony. I am striving for what Samuel Beckett terms, ‘a form that accommodates the mess.’ I want to broaden the scope of the film to include this space and tension, which is typically excluded or concealed, and that is the reason for the overlapping strands in the film”



  • Bernadette is composed of a combination of elements including archival material, new footage, animation and scripted voiceover.
  • The film opens with black and white footage of Bernadette’s bare skin: her toes, her feet, her arms, her eyes.
  • This extolling of the parts of the body is a cinematic version of the blason, an adoration of ‘the beloved’ which has migrated from its origins in French poetry to film (Jean Luc Godard’s Le Mépris also opens with a scene of this sort, dedicated to Brigitte Bardot).
  • This portrayal of the beloved is subsequently overturned and then almost forgotten in the rest of the film, which shows a firebrand of a woman, one who, after being prohibited from speaking in Parliament after Bloody Sunday, punched the Home Secretary (and later said her only regret was that she “didn’t get him by the throat”).
  • As the footage progresses it becomes clear that these excerpts are not given to the viewer so that a story might be learnt in the manner of a historical documentary.
  • Rather, the viewer is confronted with simply more and more representations of Devlin, as an object of irrational attention; these images no longer appear to be under Campbell’s control, but rule over him illustrating the limitations of historical memory.
  • Campbell adds: ‘I wanted to faithfully represent Devlin, to do justice to her legacy. Yet I worked with mediated images of her and writings about her. What I produced can only ever be a selection of these representations, via my own obsessions and my desire to make winning art of her.’
  • (http://artdaily.com/index.asp?int_sec=2&int_new=27385&b=frankfurt#.VEWokyKUfnM)


  • The film interrogate the dual notions of documentary and biography by removing the media-created characters of Devlin from real life and placing them in a fictional universe of Campbell’s construction, made possible through the process of footage retrieval.


  • These aren’t the most interesting clips in the films but they indicate the extent to which these individuals were hounded by the media, and exemplify the style of the middle sections of the films.



  • In this 37-minute film essay, Campbell uses 16mm archival images to deconstruct the figure of Bernadette Devlin, the charismatic socialist activist from Northern Ireland who became the youngest member of the British Parliament in 1969 at age 21.


  • By exploring Devlin’s face and words, Campbell evokes a form of political idealism and compromise that today seems lost, while the deliberately choppy and haphazard editing reveals the limits and perversity of media discourse.—Manuel Yáñez-Murillo



  • The media works at Lines of Control reflect the multi-layered and complexly negotiated re-presentations of border-experiences and figures, works in other media at the exhibition usher us into a more critically daring zone — the realm of intimate personal memories, desires, and interpretations pertaining to displacement and the imaginations its fosters.



  • The film is book ended by material shot by Campbell, consisting of semi-abstract sequences, glimpses, details and textures of a room; fugitive glimpses often blurring the line between an image and no image creating a contemporary ambiguous space surrounding the mediated material.


  • The mid section of the film consists of brilliantly re-edited material from television and press archives.


  • By highlighting the perspectives taken by the media, including the false starts, hesitations and preparations usually cut from news footage, the film reveals the construction and manipulation of Devlin’s media image and the prejudice and condescension with which her politics and her very person were treated.





Politics - Britain's Youngest Female MP - Bernadette Devlin - Belfast - 1969








Zarina Hashmi (Dividing Lines, 2001 and Letters from home,

2004) – Razin Rubin

  • Lines of control: Partition as a productive space

More than forty works of video, prints, photographs, paintings, sculpture, and installation by by thirty-three international artists delve into the past and explore the present to expose the seductive simplicity of drawing lines as a substitute for learning how to live with each other.
These artists focus on the idea of partition as a productive space–where nations are made through forging new identities and relationships; reconfiguring memory and creative forgetting; re-writing history and the making of myths; and through the creation and patrolling of borders.




  • Zarina Hashmi

(born 1937) is an Indian artist. After marrying a diplomat officer, she traveled widely in Asia, Europe, Latin America and the United States. Even after making New York her base in the 1970’s, she continued to travel.  Hashmi produces work in a number of forms, primarily using paper. Her work spans drawing, printmaking, paper making, sculpture, and drawing. It is abstract and minimal and explores the concept of home.

Zarina Hashmi left India in 1958. Around the same time, her family were subject to relocation from Delhi to Karachi following the partition of India and Pakistan. Consequently exile and the loss of the family home are embedded in her work, whose spare visual vocabulary often evokes physical and psychological spaces relating to memories of childhood and later life.




Zarina Hashmi

  • Dividing Lines,2001 and Letters from home, 2004

It’s a work that represents a very difficult moment in Zarina’s life, she made it shortly after she was being threatened to leave her home in New York, her working space, her life space…. What does the home mean for her?… When you think about the title, ‘Home is a Foreign Place’, it represents so much of what Zarina’s work is about. Home is a confused notion for her. She represented India at the Venice Biennale yet she doesn’t have an Indian passport. Her family … lives in Pakistan but that country too is somewhat alien to her.

“… the border between India and Pakistan that was demarcated by the 1947 partition caused the displacement and death of millions of people, and eventually forced Zarina’s family to leave their home in 1959.

… represents another element of Zarina’s memory and references the artist’s notion that home can be described as a foreign concept. Language is central to the artist’s work, and in this series the Urdu text pays homage to a place she has left several decades ago”. -Zarina Hashmi






Being Singular Plural, running until June 6 at the Guggenheim in Manhattan, was first staged at the Deutsche Guggenheim in 2010.1Funded by Deutsche Bank and curated by Sandhini Poddar (a native of India and Assistant Curator of Asian Art at the Guggenheim in New York1) the exhibit features “recent and new film, video, and sound-based works by seven of the most innovative and visionary contemporary artists, filmmakers, and media practitioners living and working in India today,” according to the museum guide.1 I learned while scanning the Guggenheim’s website that the exhibit takes its name from an essay and book by French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy,2 and that is what first caught my attention. From there I was led to sponsor Deutsche Bank’s site where it was explained that, in addition to Nancy, the philosophies of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari formed the foundation of the included works.1 In fact, Desire Machine Collective, whose work features prominently in the show, derives their name from Deleuze and Guattari’s philosophy of a “productive machine subconscious.”3 This concept reminded me of Bruno Latour’s dingpolitik, and the agency of nonhuman actors.4While not overtly political (Amar Kanwar’s The Torn First Pages (2004-08) being the exception), the “power” of things—both in the literal and metaphorical sense—is a subtext of the exhibition. Filling four floors of the museum annex plus a sound installation in the museum plaza fronting Fifth Avenue, it’s a large show encompassing audio, video (both projection and monitor-based), historical artifacts, and interactivity. The themes of environment (both built and natural), obsolescence, suppression, revolt, community, and abandonment, also feature prominently in the show. This summary of the exhibition’s goal comes from the Deutsche Guggenheim’s website: “As Nancy has argued, the emptying out of representation, wherein evidence lies, points to the moving image as an end in itself rather than a means to an end that may lie outside the image’s surface.”1

The primary components of the exhibit include Trespassers Will (Not) Be Prosecuted (2012) by Desire Machine Collective, in the museum plaza; The Torn First Pages (2004-08) by artist Amar Kanwar, located on the second floor; Desire Machine Collectives’ films Residue(2011) and Nishan (2007- ), on floor five; and Kabir Mohanty’s interactive installation In Memory (2009/12), located on the seventh floor.

In Memory (2009/12)

In Memory (2009/12) by Kobir MohantyIn Memory (2009/12) by Kabir MohantyIn Memory (2009/12). Source: Phaedon.

The seventh floor of the annex is home to Kabir Mohanty’s In Memory(2009/12) (done in collaboration with an engineer), an interactive and immersive installation that, in the words of the museum’s guidebook, “plays with the ideas of distance and proximity, interiority and exteriority, and singularity and community, traveling to the heart of Nancy’s philosophy.”The work comprises a Foley pit containing rocks, sand, and artificial turf, with sensors underneath to track movement and speakers hung in a circular pattern that broadcasts the sounds of children playing, birds chirping, and other familiar sounds of the outdoors. Visitors are invited to step into the pit, pick up the sand and stones, and become fully engaged with the work. It’s a truly immersive and—unlike Trespassers Will (Not) Be Prosecuted(2012)—fully transportive experience. I found that through touch, sound, and the workings of my own imagination (closing my eyes helped), I became one with this piece and with the self-contained environment it creates. The effect adheres to Mohanty’s belief that “we are individually multiple.”10 The visitor/participant is at once both alone and embraced in an environment pulsing with beautiful energy.


To summarize the experience of Being Singular Plural, the themes of isolation and community thread their way throughout the exhibit butThe Torn First Pages (2004-08) seems a moving but distracting addition to me. By its use of paper as film screen, it most cleverly embodies the media/material link (unlike In Memory (2009/12)‘s overt manifestation), and although it stands firmly on its own as a narrative on the brutality of man, the ridiculousness of politics, and the power of art and media to bring attention to injustice, it’s thematically disjointed from the rest of the show because of its politics. Disjointed is also the word I would use to describe the physical layout of the exhibit. I found having to move from the outside plaza, to floors 2, 5, then 7, a bit irritating. In fact, floor 7 was inaccessible during my first visit and I had to return a week later to see In Memory (2009/12). Despite some curatorial missteps, Being Singular Plural is such an extensive show that there is something here for everyone. Amar Kanwar’s The Torn First Pages (2004-08), Design Machine Collective’s film Residue (2011), and Kabir Mohanty’sIn Memory (2009/12), in particular, have either a theme or subtext relatable to the physicality, innovation, and implications of contemporary media.

Kabir Mohanty also encourages alternative visual and auditory experiences. Mohanty’s approach stems from a filmmaker’s sensibility but moves beyond this framework to develop an innovative vision for video. On Annex Level 7 he screens the recently completed epic video Song for an ancient land (2003–12) over four hours, while stressing the haptic and the physicality of video. Mohanty’s sensitive sound installation nearby, In Memory (2009/12), made in collaboration with sound designer and engineer Vikram Joglekar, invites visitors to interact with a Foley pit that mixes live sounds with prerecorded tracks. The installation overall plays with ideas of distance and proximity, interiority and exteriority, and singularity and communality, traveling to the heart of Nancy’s philosophy.

T. J. Demos, in reference to the first iteration of this exhibition, wrote: “By reorganizing aesthetic experience, these artworks compel us to transition from recognizing the self’s fundamental social being to considering its ethico-political imperatives.”

—Sandhini Poddar, Associate Curator, Asian Art

After having been shown by Bangalore’s GallerySKE, Kabir Mohanty’s unusual installation titled In Memory along with his two-part video, Song for an ancient land are being shown at the newly opened Deutsche+Guggenheim gallery in Berlin.In Memory uses an 8 x 6 foot ‘foley pit’ filled with primordial-looking grassy soil, stone slabs, layered like slates formed over millennia and pebbles generally found on river beds where ancient human and non-human civilizations evolved. Along with such earthily sensuous objects, the 500-kilogram, ground-level ‘foley pit’ is connected with live microphones and recorded tracks, pressure sensors, movement sensors, wires and active audio monitors. It invites the viewer to walk on it and get sounds of her or his walk recorded amidst the evocation of a pre-recorded ‘maze’, or the ‘forests’ of sounds as the artist calls it.

Installation view of In Memory (detail)

The sounds in Kabir Mohanty’s works – both on ‘screen’ (videos, Song for an ancient land, for instance) and on ‘soil’ (In Memory installation) are as muted as ancient, suggesting earth, waiting to be dug up for archaeology, to explore forests of sound in their internal luminosity. As we know, the hierarchy of sounds is as domineering as any other social, cultural or political hierarchy. I believe it is the sounds of subalterneity that Mohanty would like us to hear; the sounds of the weak and the suppressed that the stronger and louder sounds stop us from hearing; from within history, and without. In the present installation, Mohanty seems to be giving ‘voices’ to those suppressed ‘sounds’, the microtones. In a sense, such polyphony also confirms his belief in human beings being ‘individually multiple.’ (“We are individually multiple,” Kabir Mohanty quoted in the beginning of Suketu Mehta’s book Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found, 2004)

For the past ten years, Mohanty has been practicing video-making after working on celluloid for over a decade. Within his spatial and temporal ‘conscience’, Mohanty’s film and video making practice acquires an enhanced meaning. Unlike filmmaking practice that engages him as director of an ensemble form with actors, video provides him an opportunity to do what he calls ‘solo’ work, something he has been contemplating for many years. In fact, for him, both these practices are related in many ways and not mutually exclusive. As he believes, the great work with the moving image, film or video, fervently resists its narrowing, and it is fundamentally not illustrative.

Video stills from Song for an ancient land

The two-part video strikes me mainly for it being deeply temporal. As a practitioner of videomaking, how does Mohanty treat a shot and ‘time’ flowing within it? Unlike a shot in filmmaking practice, having its beginning and end, video allows him a greater degree of digressions in the shot-continuum, and that offers him temporal spaces for improvisations like in the rendering of a raga in Indian classical music. By alluding to music, Mohanty also alludes to time. Duree or duration for him is a ‘section of time’. For him this ‘section of time’ is not a shot because it allows dysfunctionality. In his temporal engagement, Mohanty seems to be inviting us to enter the crucial zone of feeling; of experience. And contemplation; challenging the demands restlessly springing from the commodity-consumer relationship.

Besides Kabir Mohanty’s, on view at Deutsche+Guggenheim, are works by Amar Kanwar and Shumana Goel, who are among the leading representatives of the contemporary Indian film scene.

– Amrit Gangar




http://www.art-it.asia/u/ab_amritg/fRspMgTULe7Y1lvqt3z8KabirMohanty_07 6854689824_60fd4b37bd_z 6854691000_a576f5a10f_z 7000809251_a29074a57e_z bsp_install2




Andleeba Akhtar

Dark Chemistry

Philosophy, Art, and Ecology at the crossroads of Speculative Realism

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DAAR: Decolonizing the thin red line of hate

  • 22nd, 2010 at 12:32 PM

“Political spaces in Palestine are not defined by legal zones, but operate through legal voids.”
– Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency, The first U.S. Exhibition

Imagine an imaginary Maginot line as thin as a quark, yet as adamant as the Wall of China, that situates itself as an impossible void, a rupture within the very fabric of space and time that rises along the frayed edge of the war-torn and conflict-ridden region of Palestine like the invisible scar of a dead god.

We learn from DAAR(Decolinzing Architecture Art Residency) that a politics of decolonization, which “implies the dismantling of the existing dominant structure — financial, military, and legal — conceived for the benefit of a single national-ethnic group, and engaging a struggle for justice and equality” is a much needed respite from the harsh politics of despair that reigns in the region. This architectural project “does not articulate a utopia of ultimate satisfaction. Its starting point is not a resolution of the conflict and the just fulfilment of all Palestinian claims; also, the project is not, and should not be thought of, in terms of a solution. Rather it is mobilizing architecture as a tactical tool within the unfolding struggle for Palestine. It seeks to employ tactical physical interventions to open a possible horizon for further transformations” (DAAR: About).

The Crow’s Nest, Oush Grab, like a volcanic monstrosity set in no-man’s land of a void between two-worlds is enclosed within a lawless realm of ash and bones, a nightmare world of ghosts without return. Beginning with the 1993 talks held in Oslo between Israeli and Palestinian representatives inaugurated what was later referred to as the “Oslo Process,” which divided this region into three types of territories in the West Bank. Hidden among these three territories we discover a fourth:

“Existing in between, this space was the width of the line that separates the three areas. Less than a millimeter thick when drawn on the scale of 1:20,000, it measured 5.5 meters in real space. The Red castle and the lawless line delves into the thickness of this line, and follows it along the edges of villages and towns, across fields, olive and fruit orchards, roads, gardens, kindergartens, fences, terraces, homes, public buildings, a football stadium, a mosque and finally a recently constructed large castle. Within this line is a zone undefined by law, a legal limbo that acts like a vortex to pull in all the forces, institutions, organizations and characters that operate within and around it” (DAAR: The first U.S. exhibition).
It is this thin red line, this lawless line of a desperate people that marks the “legal voids” of a political spacebetween Palestine and Israel. The Red Castle and the lawless line investigates “the clash of geopolitical lines onto the domestic space of the castle, and operating on the margin between architecture, cartography and legal practice, we seek to bring up a legal case that calls for an anarchic regime of political autonomy to inhabit this line. It is from these seam lines—, small tears in the territorial system—, that the entire system of divisions may finally be torn down” (ibid.).

Ultimately this group of artists and architects seem to be guided by the principle of “return”:

“The notion of “return” has defined the diasporic and extraterritorial nature of Palestinian politics and cultural life since the Nakba in 1947-48. Often articulated in the “suspended politics” of political theology it has gradually been blurred in the futile limbo of negotiations.

Return is a political act that is both practiced at present and projected as an image into an uncertain future. But return cannot be understood only as the suspended politics of an ideological projection, but also as a varied form of politics constantly practiced, grounding a future ideal in present day material realities. This represents a varied set of practices that we would like to call “present returns”.

This project seeks thus to chart out and intervene within a wider field of possible political, social and cultural practices of return. Practices of return might include elements of daily life in refugee camps, and the interaction of the idea of return with the built reality of the camp – often a form of architecture that seeks to communicate temporariness – practices through which the camps become spheres of action carved out of state sovereignty. They might also include the material practices of memory, archaeology being one of them, or other cultural and artistic practices that operate within an extraterritorial space but always in relation to an imagined one. On occasion, present practices of return may also have a more militant dimension, with some guerrilla operations referred to as ‘operations of return’.

The varied forms of present return navigate the complex relation between two places – the place of refuge and the site of origins – and as such they are practices with a fundamental spatial dimension” (DAAR: Returns Introduction).






JUXTAPOZ // Tuesday, 07 Dec 2010



Decolonizing Architecture, a project by Alessandro Petti, Sandi Hilal, and Eyal Weizman, is the first U.S. exhibit by Decolonizing Architecture/Art Residency (DAAR). The press release reads:

“Initiated by Alessandro Petti, Sandi Hilal and Eyal Weizman in 2007, DAAR is a project set up as a research studio and residency program in Beit Sahour, Bethlehem. The studio examines architecture to articulate the spatial complexities of decolonization, taking the conflict over Palestine as their main case study. Collaborating with a range of individuals including artists, filmmakers, activists, academics and non-profit organizations, they embark on a broad spectrum of critically-engaged and highly-focused research projects seeking to use spatial practice as a form of political intervention and narration. Offering new possibilities for insight and engagement, DAAR aims to inaugurate an ‘arena of speculation’ that incorporates varied cultural and political perspectives as interventions within the political, legal, and social force fields that exist there.”




Seeing Things | Decolonizing Architecture



DECEMBER 9, 2010 11:52 AMDecember 9, 2010 11:52 am

Amina Bech. All images courtesy of Decolonizing Architecture/Art Residency.A photomontage from “The Red Castle and the Lawless Line” visually highlights a building that rests along the West Bank’s political dividers.

In a new exhibition at the Gallery at REDCAT in Los Angeles, the Decolonizing Architecture Art Residency (DAAR) looks at ways to use architecture to investigate and speculate about the future of sites that have been evacuated, or decolonized, by Israel in Palestine’s West Bank. DAAR — a Bethlehem-based research studio and residency program led by Alessandro Petti, Sandi Hillal and Eyal Weizman — envisions a “detoured world,” in which political, legal and architectural approaches can be employed to reuse both physical and organizational structures in new, and often unorthodox, ways.

Putting a new spin on the idea of adaptive reuse, “Return to Nature” proposes to transform the former Israeli army barracks in Oush Grab into an observatory for migrating birds, turning the empty concrete buildings over to nature. “The Red Castle and the Lawless Line,” the studio’s most recent project, focuses on a wealthy Palestinian businessman’s newly constructed mansion, which happens to sit on the line that divides the West Bank into three zones. In the map that resulted from the 1993 Oslo Accords, this line was drawn with red ink. The architects propose to transform the “red line” into an extraterritorial space that falls under neither Israeli nor Palestinian jurisdiction,  and which can be used as a powerful site for intervention and appropriation.

Sara Pellegrini A photomontage from “Project: Return to Nature” shows the abandoned Israeli military base at Oush Grab and the migratory crows that rest there.

DAAR believes that these small tears or gaps in the territorial system, like a seam that has come unsewn, may allow the entire system of divisions in the West Bank to be opened up and torn down. The exhibition, the first American presentation of DAAR’s work, provides not only a window onto a world that most of us know only from news that focuses on politics and conflict, but also offers innovative and imaginative approaches to the reuse of architecture and urban infrastructure that could be adopted in our own cities.



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