July 24, 2011
Azad Art Gallery, Tehran. July 2011- I saw that which had remained unseen
Photographic Installation by Leena Kejriwal
Curated by Shaheen Merali
For the forthcoming exhibition at the Azad Gallery in Tehran, the artist revisits her major work by re-organising her material by adding a series of newer photographic works that explores the precarious position of young women in urban settings as the vulnerable prey of a predator male culture.
The latest version of the installation, I saw that which had remained unseen, follows two remarkable installations that precede it, Entropic Sites, at the Shrine Empire Gallery, New Delhi and East City, at the Birla Academy of Arts and Culture in Kolkata, both in India. I saw that which had remained unseen, marks an important stage for the artist, whose own engagement in issues of gender inequality has been furthered recently by the work of non government organisations, including the New Light Project and the Apne Aap Women Worldwide organisation, which encourages us to revisit the question of our medieval relationship to slavery and workers whose bodies are abused. Alongside the benefits that arise from living in the city that provides us with shelter, work and pleasure, we still have to consider how to effectively abolish such types of urban-based abusive behaviour.
Kejriwal has lived and worked in Kolkata, where the initial avatar of this installation was presented in 2010, demonstrating an astute understanding of the local that provided an intriguing study of one of our most enriched centres of culture: her eastern city. The installation, East City, allowed us an understanding of how one can study the continuing behaviour of our ancestors alongside
the platitudes of progress. Here, the seams of modernity are encrusted with village idioms and pulsate with revolutionary inventions; the interweaving of religions, languages and the vestiges of colonialism all co-exist in the former capital of British India and the epi-centre of the Bay of Bengal, populated by babus and bibis who slowly begin to question its current dynamics.
For its second manifestation, Entropic Sites, a much darker palimpsest was exposed. Often we are arrested by the cat-and-mouse aesthetics of the city’s intent and its contemporary purpose, as the evasive advertising turns the classical into kitsch, and even the mundane into the sordid. Kejriwal’s large-scale photographic installations are one of the most honest testaments to this eastern dream of expansion and the rise of a technopolis on the site of the former city’s carcass, embroiling human folly.
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