Thursday, 15 April 2010

The bridging power of art

Pakistan's just across the border, but is still so far away: considering we all used to be as one, we now know surprisingly little about them. What do they eat? What do they wear? What movies move them? Do they get Top Chef on the cable there? 

For the past few months, Delhi's had a rare insight into the minds of Pakistanis, via their modern art. Not-for-profit gallery Devi Art Foundation has been hosting an exhibition of contemporary art and sculpture from across the dotted line, called Resemble, Reassemble.

Ironically, the gallery is in the no-mans land that is Gurgaon: that mini-me Delhi, a borough perhaps, albeit one that's flush with call-centre cash; a place somewhat anathema to your average South Delhi-ite. Getting to Gurgaon is a struggle, there's no train and involves hiring a taxi for an expensive ride. It's what Wimbledon is to North Londoners, the Brooklyn to Manhattanites, the Manly for south-of-the-harbour Sydneysiders.

Last week, however, I had a meeting down there and afterwards, despite the sizzling midday heat and the surly no-English-madam cabbie, I stopped at Devi Arts for a look deep inside the minds of the other side. 

What do they think? I'm generally art-illiterate, so couldn't tell you. Modern art should come with Cliffs Notes. But I suppose in this case, that would defeat the purpose.

Perhaps they feel oppressed, particularly the women. That's the impression I got from this series of works, showing seated women with their elaborate hairstyles covering their faces.

Or another exhibit, an installation of a sink with an illuminated plughole. Look down it and you see a tiny little video of a veiled woman, sitting, looking forlornly up at you through the holes, a sink-like prison, then down at her ankles, then up, then down. She's so insignificant she can be flushed down the sink.

Nearby there's a slice of road, like a giant piece of layered cake. Layers of rock, some big rocks and some small, are all slathered in a thick layer of shiny, sticky black bitumen on top, like the icing on the cake. Like layering over rocky bits of history with an unassailable, impenetrable layer. Or something.

I only got two photos before the guard got to me; the first of perhaps my top-rated exhibit, an array of gleaming machine gun parts and surgical tools suspended from the ceiling. Even I got that one.

The exhibition's only on for a few more weeks, so don't wait for a reason to go to Gurgaon to check it out, just go.

Read more about Resemble, Reassemble here.

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