Tuesday, February 5, 2013

‘At Home’ – a distant view of body, faces and emotions

Hetain Patel, a UK-based practitioner, creates art that spans a wide range of media. His works are laregely performative in nature. More recently, his central concern has been visited through the curious lens of imitation, through physical movement and language, in particular. Increasingly it's dotted by fictional and real characters, in relation to which he tends to juxtapose himself in moments of both elision and dissonance.

For his first solo in India last year courtesy Mumbai-based Chatterjee & Lal, he had presented many new works - single as well as multi-channel videos apart from photographic prints. The exhibition was presented in two parts so as to show the vastness of his practice. It included a single channel video, and another 5 channel video installation. These featured Hetain Patel’s family members, wherein he showed his keenness in exploring the body’s ability to hold and create cultural memory. Repetition and imitation emerge as tools to excavate the body’s history.

‘To Dance Like Your Dad’ highlighted his rehearsed imitation of his father, who since emigration to the UK almost forth years ago never returned to the home country. Here the artist looked to restage existing footage of his father in his coach building factory in the UK. Focusing on his father’s physicality, he performed his words, mannerisms, movements and his accent, whilst the cameraman also performs all the original camera movements. Both films have been shot in a single take. They played in sync with one other.

Hetain Patel’s interest lies in the subtleties between what’s inherited and what’s imitated. The attempted imitation here offered a construct for these discussions to occur. He occasionally moved out of sync with his father, even missing a movement. Certain physical traits confirmed a genetic link existing between father and son, at the other extreme. The source of a perfectly matched posture/expression could not exactly be pinpointed, whereas ‘Mamai’ was a portrait of his grandmother. Every day she would remembered not the words she sang the day before, but instead those instilled in her more than a decade ago.

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