Experimenter’s presents Remnants as Traces at Art Dubai 2020, an exhibition that underscores the position of the personal within political and geographical contexts in attempt to find residues of living through the works of Adip Dutta, Ayesha Sultana, Bani Abidi, Biraaj Dodiya, Julien Segard, Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Naeem Mohaiemen, Prabhakar Pachpute, Praneet Soi, Radhika Khimji, Rathin Barman, Sahil Naik, Samson Young, and Soumya Sankar Bose.
Bani Abidi, Nadia Kaabi-Linke, Ayesha Sultana and Radhika Khimji’s works engage the body and examine the personal act of how the body navigates its surrounding environment. Bani Abidi’s Security Barriers depict vector drawings of barricades in Karachi that question segregation and control in setting not only political and geographical boundaries but also psychological ones. Nadia Kaabi-Linke’s paintings are tactile, textural impressions on canvas, often impressions collected from wall surfaces around the world over several years depicting the ‘skin’ of cities we inhabit and how politics and geography form the residual identity of the individual and collective. Tactility is explored in Ayesha Sultana’s Miasms, ink on tissue paper paintings, that are intimate manifestations of sentience, corporeality, movement and consciousness of being. In a parallel strand, Radhika Khimji’s works are abstractions of body and form, expressed through fragments that are dimensional with materials such as photo-transfer on wood, cloth, handmade paper, thickened acrylic paint, and sewing. Khimji’s engagement with material resonates with a process that is built up over time with each image revealing visual realities that are constructed and deconstructed.
Biraaj Dodiya, Adip Dutta and Soumya Sankar Bose’s works explore notions of memory, loss, death, and the ephemeral nature of life. Biraaj Dodiya’s painting From the Roof is composed of layered references drawn from personal experiences and their complex manifestations in adulthood. Abstract landscape and form structure her paintings depicting textural depths and suggesting spaces where meanings meander, and realities merge within labyrinthine versions of truths. Notions of decay, sorrow, personal anxieties expressing the fragility of time, and disquiet regarding an uncertain future are investigated through bronze sculptures titled Relics by Adip Dutta depicting desolate branches of arid trees, resembling crucified form. In another body of work titled Rupture, Dutta explores traces of abandonment and desolation in the urban environment through a series of drawings. Soumya Sankar Bose’s photographs imagine possible futures, and reexamine traumatic pasts, through his subjects’ visions and anxieties. Where the Birds Never Sing, is a body of work on the Marichjhapi massacre, the forcible eviction in 1979 of Bangladeshi refugees on an island in West Bengal. Over the years, Bose has been researching and re-enacting memories of the survivors in specific locations, as there is very little written record of the incident. Through the intricate weaving of facts and fiction of existing oral histories of the survivors, he brings to light perspectives of the same narrative, forming a cryptic framework of a problematic history that is facing slow erasure from the memory of people.
Julien Segard carefully considers the urban environment, the crevices where the constructed meets the natural, and how the two become inseparable. His watercolor paintings feature an assemblage of found elements and architectural structures that exist because of humans, but are bereft of human presence. He discerns the intimate, symbiotic, and oftentimes destructive relationship between man, nature and architecture. Prabhakar Pachpute and Rathin Barman’s works question the significance of human life in social, political and anthropological landscapes of our inhabitable lands. Pachpute’s practice develops from a range of characters associated with the exploitation of land resources, through a narrative built with lived experiences and folk tales narrated by miners and farmers. The characters and landscape in his paintings sculptures and wall murals, galvanize the ethical issues of land and labor exploitation. Using built architecture, interwoven with anthropological surveys and personal narratives of people living in constantly expanding cities, Rathin Barman presents a monumental concrete wall-based sculpture, Restructured Living Space I. Barman’s works with construction materials using concrete, brass, and pigment, attempting to question the transforming nature of built spaces and the transient nature of human existence and memory.
Praneet Soi considers painting methods and weaves them with contemporary mediums such as photojournalism to create layers and juxtapositions between the narrative and the image. His practice emerges from a deep association with the circulated image, and its deconstruction. The work Hold Still alludes to the amalgamation of abstraction with spatial aspects of architecture in an attempt to subvert perceptions of conflict zones. Similarly, architecture as a complex cultural technology at the intersection of economic, technical, scientific, artistic, legal, media, religious, and political interests manifests in Sahil Naik’s Modernist Facades for New Nations, charting nation building projects of the twentieth-century in the overlaps of socialist republics, post-colonies, the Non-Aligned countries and the global south. A theme that while equally liberating remained routed in control.
Samson Young’s Chopin series exploring ideas of openness, control and negotiation, is a series of drawings based on an abstract cluster of scribbles with a pen plotter by Frederic Chopin in his original manuscripts where he crossed out mistakes made in particular compositions. Naeem Mohaiemen’s The year 1973 created many problems for Imperialists are archival prints on paper exploring histories of failed utopias in an international context dominated by the bloc politics of the Cold War era. Mohaiemen cross-references narratives, myths, found footage and photographs, archives, news media materials, and text, while also revealing the research and methodology of the author as artist and historian.
Remnants as Traces probes beyond the surficial understanding of residues of living in a complex, conflicted world and uses human form, personal experiences, political philosophies and lived architecture as multiple points of entry in understanding our nuanced circumstances through the works of the artists on view.