Hyphenated Lives: Reena Saini Kallat
Reena Saini Kallat’s 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 opened on 11th September 2015 with new works coupled with a few older pieces. The artist known for her diverse and imaginative use of materials incorporates drawing, photography, sculpture and video, based on conceptual processes.
One of the motifs as well as medium in the making of these works, has been the electrical cable. In Hyphenated lives, 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 Hyphenated lives 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 the suite of works titled Hyphenated Lives, Reena 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. It is the artist / individual herself at play both as contestant /companion, reflecting on the dualities and inherent ambiguities captured in the video.
The poetic photo-piece ‘Saline Notations’ made using salt, explores the tenuous yet intrinsic relationship between the body and the oceans, highlighting the fragility and unpredictability of existence. Collectively this work and the sculptural sound-piece, ‘Echoes’ act like the connective tissue that binds the exhibition together, making it a cohesive whole.
Throughout the exhibition Reena unfolds propositions that confront us, making us aware of the existing dichotomies within our conflicted selves, in our relationship with others, as a series of conversations that might transpire not just with the self, extend between two neighbours but between two countries in the world.