Saturday, May 14, 2011

‘Lens-ing It’: Abul Kalam Azad and Vivek Vilasini's photo series

Apart from Ram Rahman and Sunil Gupta, ‘Lens-ing It’ at Ashna Gallery, New Delhi features works by Abul Kalam Azad and Vivek Vilasini. The former creates ‘series’ of ‘types’ of people who in the popular imagination represent Goa. He de-constructs the ‘stereotypes’ created by the popular movies and other popular narratives about Goans and in its place, establishes a series of ‘archetypes’ of people who in reality constitute the ‘racial character’ of a society. For the artist, racial character is not a term of insult on the contrary he, going by the Jungian ideas frames them as characters that determine the cultural make up of a society.

Abul Kalam Azad, whom curator Johny ML calls the ‘master of the Mattanchery School of contemporary photography’ revels in documenting the immediate surroundings with a deeply rooted ideological positioning on politics and gender, and also he uses his creative forces to capture things that could subtly evoke autobiographical linkages between the artist and the images. In the present series, he presents a set of photographs generally titled ‘My Anger and Other Stories’.

Abul Azad employs direct photography as his method. The angle from which the objects are captured shows how the artist holds these objects together in his life however scattered they are as if they were the sustaining narratives of his public and private life as an artist as well as an individual.

Vivek Vilasini’s ‘Between One Shore and Several Others’ is one of the highly acclaimed series produced by the artist during the last ten years of his career. In this series, he painstakingly documents the people who have names that do not have anything to do with their location, personality or profession. Some of them are named Stalin, some are Ho Chi Minh and Soviet Breeze.

The artist recaptures the socio-political and cultural contexts in which these people came to have these names. The living people with ‘un-localized’ names achieve semi-iconic status in these works, ironically emphasizing the contradictions that they embody not only within their contexts but also in an exposed global scenario. While giving them a sort of iconicity, with the iconic names as their claim to fame, Vivek also traces the cultural roots that could have imbibed the energies for their parents who named them after these well known personalities.

(Information and essay courtesy: curator Johny ML for Ashna Gallery, New Delhi)

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