Sunday, February 10, 2013

Addressing the issues of gender/memory/history and loss

Navjot Altaf’s multimedia work, including interactive sculpture, photo and video based installations, address the themes of gender/memory/ history and loss. Interactive and collaborative in nature, her oeuvre comprises community-based art projects set in Indian villages and socio-economically marginalized areas. For example, her series ‘Water Weaving’ (2005) comprised sculptures done in collaboration with craftswomen from a tribal group in Bastar located in central India.

Considered one of the most significant contemporary artists of her generation, she has re-tracked and treaded the terrain of injustice and violence, transmuting her core concerns to the intimate, closely guarded private lives of women. This, in turn, lends itself to the pictorial convention of clearly communicating the complex emotion inherent in the fragile feminine predicament.

In this fine balance struck between the work as autonomous formal creation and as empathic representation, lies the spirit of its expression. Explaining her concerns as an artist, she has stated: “I was more interested in depicting people’s struggle till the late 1970’s. I had been dealing with women’s issues, those of my own class - the upper middle-class. The criticism I confronted from my Marxist friends was that I was becoming too individualistic. But I thought it was important for me to reflect on my own being.”

The artist has also featured in the milestone show at London’s Tate Modern ‘Century City: Art and Culture in the Modern Metropolis’. In her installation, titled ‘Between Memory and History’, she explored the pain of social disruption. It incorporated uncountable paper ribbons knotted into a metal mesh. The testimonies of those having witnessed cataclysmic events like the Mumbai riots were written on them. The monitors showed some documentary images, while the multitude of voices offered possibilities for reconciliation.

In 2010, Mumbai-based Guild Gallery presented her new research & interactive project, which was an outcome of her eighth visit to the US for a residency program. An extension of her exhibit ‘Bombay Shots’ (2008), the project tried to find the binding thread between the two cities and their people from diverse cultures and backgrounds.

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