Monday, July 29, 2013

An artist known for her self-reflexive practice

Dynamic and equally diverse multidisciplinary oeuvre of talented Tejal Shah incorporates a gamut of media and forms such as video, photography, installation and performance. She looks to explore biopower, the perceived social construction of normalcy, and issues about the relationship existing between knowledge and power in the constitution of subjects, identities and social relations.

One of her recent noteworthy works is ‘Between the Waves’, a five-channel video installation. An accompanying artist statement explains: “The earliest known visual representations of a single horned animal – Unicorn – have been excavated from the archeological sites of Indus Valley Civilization. Appearing on seals and tablets, whether these designate a real or mythical animal remains unknown, just as the pictographic language of the civilization remains undeciphered.

“These seals surface as chapter markers in the circular fable Between the Waves. In popular imagination, Unicorns are associated with Western mythology but through this performative video installation, the artist brings them back to their supposed original home, a region to which Shah also traces her family lineage.”

She looks to pack in multiple layers of references. For example, while her Unicorns are eternally mutating humanimals, they build upon Rebecca Horn’s Einhorn (presented at Documenta V, 1972). Horn herself references Frida Khalo’s ‘The Broken Column’ (1944) as her point of departure. Informed by diverse sources from different histories - stories from various disenfranchised subcultures - she transcends otherness. Apart from the core concerns, which form a contextual reference point, the vicissitudes of gender and culture also function as a site her work wherein she underscores the contradictions inherent in the braiding of the personal and the political.

Her works have been shown widely in several museums, art galleries and film festivals . A recipient of the Sanskriti Award for visual arts (2009), her works are in several major collections in India and abroad such as Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and Devi Art Foundation in New Delhi. In 2003-4, she co-founded and curated Larzish, a International Film Festival of Sexuality and Gender Plurality.

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