City Pavilions of The 9th Shanghai Biennale
Exhibition title: Energy Plus
Curators: Diana Campbell and Susan Hapgood
Pablo Bartholomew, an internationally-recognized artist and award-winning photojournalist who is based in New Delhi, lived as a young man in Mumbai, a city where he found his own professional voice as a photographer. Thirty black and white photographs shot between 1976 and 1983 capture the vitality, energy, and chaos of the city, the pathos and beauty of existing on the margins of society, as well as the intense disparity between wealth and abject poverty that is a simple fact of life in Mumbai.
Mansi Bhatt, a Mumbai-based artist, has created a new performance that centers on a hybrid futuristic avatar, part Hindu mythological creature, part warrior, part bride. First performed by Bhatt, and then by others she has trained, the performer interacts with audience members throughout the exhibition space for five hours a day, inviting written love notes in this new work titled KALKInama.
Hemali Bhuta, a Mumbai-based artist who has exhibited throughout Europe and India, is best known for her sculptures. She is represented here by work in other mediums with which she is equally conversant: video and collaged works on paper. The innovative abstract video, The Movement (2007) uses only rubber bands and filament to create a study in moving abstraction, while a selection of works on paper from 2009 similarly emanate from these insignificant materials, showing this artist's facility in transforming virtually any material or medium she takes up, including the mundane and unwanted, "the hopeless corners and useless things."
Neha Choksi, a Mumbai-based, United States-educated artist best known for her works exploring absence and the invisible, has created a new work for the Biennale which reuses one rubber mould to cast a series of shrinking concrete cubes. A continuation of her column cube series, the mould shrinks as it is sewn for reuse, and is reused until it is so dense that concrete can no longer fit inside. A series of photographs documenting her meditative process and her will for reduction will accompany the new sculpture.
Shilpa Gupta, a Mumbai-born and educated, internationally-recognized artist is revisiting and reconfiguring a sculpture from her acclaimed singing microphone series for the 2012 Shanghai Biennale. The form was born from perusing the grey market in Mumbai, and the microphones are rewired to emit sound in reverse, creating a sense of urgency as one listens to a five-minute audio loop about people who have disappeared, becoming mere numbers whose existence is nearly impossible to calculate. In tandem with the sound piece, the exhibition includes a chalkboard work with numbers written one over the other, and the collected chalk dust below, reflecting the seemingly endless markings that acknowledge those who no longer exist.
Kausik Mukhopadyay lives just outside of Mumbai, where he creates kinetic sculptures by reusing everyday household materials and office machinery. His Toofun Mail sculpture made from kitchen pots and pans, rakes, and other bits of repurposed detritus, has been assembled to create a train car that slowly travels its futile path on a makeshift circular track. Mukhopadyay is a highly respected yet somewhat underexposed artist who has exhibited infrequently in recent years.
Manish Nai, a young Mumbai based artist who is beginning to exhibit internationally, is displaying two series of works made from crushed everyday disposable objects such as jute thread, glue, and newspaper. Nai creates sensitive, sculptural art works that are also monuments to the artist’s personal history: he began using jute thread as a medium when his father lost the family jute business. Nai’s work serves as a testament to Mumbai’s entrepreneurial embrace of new ideas and potential for success, despite the odds.
Gyan Panchal, a Paris-based artist with Indian roots, exhibits works that are created from objects he found in Mumbai. In the sculpture pelom 1 (2012), Panchal examines a piece of discarded green marble, revealing that the jewel-like green tone is not the stone’s actual color, but rather an ink stain applied with cloth to the natural stone. Panchal rubs away this colorful mask, revealing hints at the stone’s original form while also exposing the fingerprints of the workers who first touched it. In the second work on view, mrmrajo (2012), he plays again with found color, in this case the lucid blue of reused plastic now repurposed for a wall composition.
Sharmila Samant is an internationally exhibited artist who is based in Mumbai. Primarily a sculptor, Samant has worked in various media including video and socially engaged community projects, and she formerly co-founded and co-directed Open Circle, a community-based nonprofit art institution. For this exhibition, the curators have selected two recent works, The Bump, which draws attention to the need to slow down, to keep alert to everything around us, and ...with the Hardships of Comfort, a piece of trompe l'oeil furniture, which looks like a potential resting spot but is actually a completely unyielding hard surface.