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Reena Saini Kallat’s forthcoming solo exhibition at Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai, titled Hyphenated Lives advance poetic and provocative inquiries into ideas of unison and estrangement, of confluence and conflict. After a gap of nearly 7 years since her last solo at the gallery in 2008, Hyphenated Lives opens on 11th September 2015 with new works. 

The artist is known for her diverse and imaginative use of materials imbued with conceptual underpinnings, incorporating drawing, photography, sculpture and video. 

One of the central motifs as well as the primary medium in the making of these works is the electrical cable. These conduits of contact that transmit ideas and information bringing people together, become painstakingly woven entanglements that morph into barbed wires like barriers.

In the suite of drawings titled Ruled Paper, (red, blue, white) wires appear as empty sheets of paper awaiting inscription, but as if they were placed under a magnifying glass they begin to reveal or unravel a rather unsettling form of the barbed wire.

Several works in theexhibition point to politically partitioned countries that often have to share their natural resources, that are the root cause of contestation and conflict and, on occasions, even the very cause for the separation of the countries. In Siamese Trees and Half Oxygen, she entwines the Banyan tree and the Deodar tree, both designated as national trees of India and Pakistan respectively. As if putting forth an analogy between the human body and nature, in Half Oxygen these national trees permeate lungs, while in Anatomy of Distance the woven wires become a spinal column taking the contorted shape of the ‘Line of Control’ drawn between the two warring nations.

In Hyphenated Lives, the suite of works from which the exhibition derives its title, Reena Kallat envisions fantastical mutations within the natural world. She invents new hybridized species of birds and animals, trees and flowers, which are otherwise fore-grounded as national symbols and proclaimed by nations as their own. In her works these get combined, symbolically unifying the nations they represent, as if we were taking a peek into an elapsed moment of unison in the past or from an imagined future when indeed they may re-unite. 

A new video ‘Pause Persist’ is set within the game of Noughts and Crosses (also referred to as Xs and Os) meant to be played between two players who take turns, marking the spaces in a 3 × 3 grid. In this video the marks X and O, are formed by an ironic play of words, often contradictory, stamped with rubberstamps. Games, like conversations involve turn-taking and here it is revealed that the game is being played by a single player, sending and receiving words in a feedback loop, taking the form of random thought patterns. It is the artist / individual herself at play both as contestant /companion, reflecting on the dualities and inherent ambiguities captured in the video.

In the photo-pieces titled ‘Saline Notations’, texts inscribed using salt, might present fragments of poems or unfold as a series of soliloquies or dialogues, that submerge with a rising tide. These meditative works point to the intrinsic relationship between the body and the oceans while alluding to the fragility and unpredictability of existence.

Without making overt submissions or conclusive statements, ‘Hyphenated Lives’ unfolds as a series of poetic juxtapositions, making layered inquires into ideas of independence and interdependence; directed at our individual conflicted selves, in our relationship with others as neighbours or as nations, prodding us to think of the many bonds and borders that make our complex existence.