My friend Eraj Wijesekera is running an exhibition of video, installation and new media art at the National Gallery, running today till the 8th (Friday). He ran a series of essays relating to the exhibition in various newspapers, which I think they cut and mangled. The essays are a bit dense but I’ve included them in their entirety here. I saw some of the filming of Aghori, about a saddhu cannibal (to be crude). The stuff is definitely experimental, but they are interesting ideas to think about. I’ll go check out the show today and perhaps post a review. The following is the text he’s written:
- a series of experimental essays were carried out in conjunction with the exhibition rhizomatic currently showing at the national art gallery.
- what’s interesting about the process of these experimentations is that the intention of the artist’s work was mediated to several individuals from varying fields.
- (1. sociologist 2. economist 3. political engineer It might be bold to refer to this symposium as a specialist diaspora, at least for the sake of the post)
- the essays were intended to communicate specialist information to a non specialist audience and then circulated to both a state and provincial audience. released via newspapers, mutated and archived, a comparison might be interesting. and if this functions as a spoiler – then it too must be considered an artistic gesture
Rhizomatic, is one of a series of solo exhibitions by Eraj Wijeyesekera. initiated both by the term rhizome, the botanical notion of a continuously growing horizontal underground stem and a concept developed by philosophers Deleuze and Guattari in a thousand plateaus, is a highly relevant discussion of a shifting configuration of media elements; a conflation of language systems. It is a groundbreaking project which will see the national gallery exhibiting film, video, installation and new media art for the first time.?? The curatorial process and the exhibition itself promises to present an acute awareness of media distribution, highlighting how information once diffused upon a central axis but now subject to dispersion, affects both anthropological and empirical understanding.??Thematically the work will identify contemporary motifs in cultural migration, deterritorialization post colonial critique and archival systems. idiosyncratic at intervals, but thorough in its specificity, the work engages with dominant art discourse, suggesting alternative formal structures in linguistics and aesthetic hierarchies but still commenting on provincial attitudes. It attempts to explore both an architectural and geographical space resulting in new ethnographic narratives.
of the body of work presented, below is an view on “aghori” an experimental video by eraj wijeyesekera
The aghoris are reputed to be an extreme sect of ascetic hindu saadhus that ostrasice themselves from society and attempt to emulate the third phase of shiva (destruction) as scavengers of the burial ground. What is interesting about this piece is that it doesn’t look at the Aghoris as an anthropoligically classified group but instead looks at an indiviual trying to embody the sect of the Aghoris. Usually when the anthropoligical gaze shifts from scrutinizing a group to an individual we expect more of the humanity to be preserved and communicated . However in this case it is more of a compromise of the human condition that is communicated. As we scrutinize the young man we cannot help but see the slight discrepency between his motives of becoming an Aghori and the reality of the life of the Aghori. He claims that he is subscribing to this life of deconstructionism in hopes of being privy to an exclusive experience , but little does he know that the philosophy of the aghoris hinges upon a doctrine of reductionism that will require him to relenquish an active engagement with the rest of the world, at least for a period of time.??It is interesting to note that the film Aghori is based upon the archival footage of an already pre existing documentary, which was made by an Indian director catering to a Euro-centric audience. The film is presented to us as a series of fragmented silent performances. Thus the structure of the film itself aspires to make a commentary on the fragmented dispersal of media and information and the authenticity of the documentary by providing a mimesis of the original documentary in multimedia format.
It is a tendency of the human psyche to want to see events as part of a seamless narrative, thus the film capitalizes on this tendency by presenting to the audience a series of fragmented performance pieces. The eyes that are viewing this piece are automatically transformed into speculation engines as the viewer is tempted to insert an element of cause and effect between the slides. Therefore this piece can be seen as one that revels in the multiple degrees of separation between itself and reality.
The second movement of the film depicts the epic departure from the burial ground straight into the metropolis. This in turn creates a point of departure from an anthropological understanding to that of an ascetic subaltern. The renegotiation of his identity moves from reflection into the need to embody the multiplicity of human desire that is at the core of the project. To further clarify the structural dexterity in this project lies in how the structure attempts to mirror the content. That it is an attempt for a structure to mirror its content is important as this is necessary for surpassing reflection and being able to materialize subjecthood instead of objecthood. The story of the Aghori’s need to synthesize his identities is communicated to us through a multiple layering of media which in turn will have to synthesize to present us the holistic story.
of the body of work presented, below is a view on “eastcoastwestcoast thenewrevolution“, a video installation by eraj wijeyesekera
The first reaction to ‘eastcoastwestcoast thenewrevolution’ is one of mild dizziness. The two vertically placed screens make it impossible for one to follow both concurrently. The amount of information being thrown at the viewer is too great to take it all in. One is forced to choose; concentrate on the top screen, a subtitled debate between two artists, or the bottom screen, the observations of an old philosopher.
Concentrating exclusively on one of the two is not possible either. Inevitably the other permeates into the narrative of your choice skewing the experience of each individual story into a semi-morphed unrecognizable form.
The purpose of eastcoastwestcoast thenewrevolution is perplexing. What do the two stories have in common? Is there a connection? What does it all mean? The west coast artist speaks of breaking away from the systems trapping the east coast artists but intermittently lapses into random asides making the dialogue fragmented and lacking in direction. The philosopher is more lucid, yet linkages between his revolution of the mind and either east coast or west coast artists are not clear cut. In reflecting the age and context from which it was begotten eastcoastwestcoast provides the viewer with plenty of information to attempt to understand, interpret and attach a meaning to what he/she sees. The problem is that there is too much information.
The philosopher in the bottom screen alludes to the answer (or indeed the absence of it). His vision for creating a revolution of the mind is hindered by preconceived notions which are rife in the human mind. He explains it thus; “when one thinks there is no god one is blocking oneself, similarly when one thinks there is a god one is blocking oneself.” In an age where the “meaning” of all things is just a mouse click away it is almost an impulsive response to search for its original meaning. In obscuring the authorial intent of the work eastcoast westcoast moves away from providing meaning and moves into the realm of “unmeaning”. Thus the viewer is left to his own devices and must create meaning through his own experience of the work. In shedding the notion that there is a preconceived singular meaning, the viewer is able to create his own.
In the early 20th century Max Weber fretted over the increasingly “rational” nature of human society. His fear of society being trapped in an “iron cage” of rationalization where all imaginative thought and creativity would be stifled due to predominance of rational thought seems even more real today where information is plentiful and the explanation of anything can be found in an one paragraph synopsis. Eastcoast westcoast is in such a context both incongruous and refreshing. In replacing meaning with experience at the core of the work it creates a richer work, more to be experienced than understood.
of the body of work presented, below is a view on migrant dream, a film installation.
the migrant dream
The visions come from above and the visions come from below: A migrant dream is represented by a restless gaze that skims through the canopies and sifts through the foliage. Thus one of the unique features about this piece is that the migrant dream is conveyed to us through a certain level of disembodiment. In fact there is no embodiment of the migrant whatsoever. Though we might get a sense that the migrant is either tactfully crawling on his belly among the undergrowth or that his limbs are animated in a frenzy we are not given any physical representation of it, instead we are presented with a field of vision. But not to despair for a migrants gaze is not an idle one; it is not one that solely communicates the greenery and the botanical variation of the rainforest backdrop. The gaze is one that varies in pace. At times the pace implies that the figure is engaged in the activity of stalking, as if it is opportunistically seeking out something, and at other times the sharp transitions and the blur of vision implies the urgency of a mass exodus . Regardless of these opposites in pace the field of vision is able to communicate a sense of anticipation, of bated breath even that is integral to the migrant’s dream. However the migrant’s sense of anticipation and urgency doesn’t find release, there is this sense that we are constantly approaching a particular object and yet never reaching it. This is apparent in the way the field of vision zeros in on clumps of greenery with such purpose only to turn away at the last moment. Thus there is this sense of an objective not found which has the ability to imply that the migrants dream is one that is constantly reorienting itself and relocating itself.
Judging that the migrant dream can be seen as a perception which keeps orienting and reorienting itself it is important to note the backdrop. The field of vision never spends too much time on the same scene it is constantly changing to a different scene; does this imply a fresh start or a fresh context? Though one might notice the changes in scene it is hard not to note that the back drop stays mainly in the tropical rainforest variety. This is symbolic in its own right because a rainforest denotes the idea of a clichéd virgin landscape which is ready to be cut, cleared and colonized, part and parcel of a long history of pioneering. Thus the backdrop implies new beginnings in the broadest anthropological sense and the variation in backdrops could imply the concept of multiple beginnings. Thus Eraj Wijeyesekera’s experimental film portrays the migrant’s dream as a restless vision; a phenomena that takes place in an “ecology of beginnings “without a definite realization of end or ends.