Friday, March 1, 2013

Of Cobwebs & Crossings

By Jigna Padhiar

A massive, compelling cobweb besieging the front facade of the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai
Sketch Image of Untitled, (Cobweb/ Crossings)

Reena Kallat’s public art installation at Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai weaves powerful stories of the metropolis in the fragile form of a cobweb.

A massive, compelling cobweb has besieged the front facade of the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum. As you walk closer to the museum building, it reveals its experiential dimension – a number of over sized rubber stamps, pinned to each other to form a brawny shape of the otherwise fragile cobweb.

The rubber stamps instantly tell you who the artist could be. Mumbai-based artist Reena Kallat has been working with the form and image of the rubber stamp as a marker for several years. Her conceptual trajectories are often shaped by the ideas of loss – of people, places, names, histories among other socio-politico-cultural aspects, as you may have noticed in her significant practice over the years.

rubberstamps bearing the Colonial name of Mumbai streets

In Untitled, (Cobweb/Crossings) supported by ZegnArt Public and Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Reena engages with and urges you to confront the many streets of Mumbai that have, in the process of decolonization, gone through name changes, from the anglicized British names to indigenized, regional ones.

rubber stamps being readied for the public art installation

Each street name has a story upon which are layered more stories over time. For Reena, the changed names are a palimpsest onto which generations re-inscribe stories. Stories being re-interpreted and altered, in a way result in the loss of history. As Reena wondered in what manner streets define a city’s imagination and how their names speak about the people who occupy them, several rubber stamps, each bearing the colonial name of a street, started interlacing into a cobweb. Researching, interviewing people residing on these streets, photographing and video documenting…revealed more stories every day as the work took shape.

Mumbai-based artist Reena Kallat working with the form and image of the rubberstamp as a marker

The artist visualises the installation in the context of the museum and its history. “The museum itself narrates the history of the city and its people through its collections.” Just like the museum’s historical existence itself tells a tale, the cobweb is an evocation of time. She says, “Stories that remain unvisited gather cobwebs that appear to hold dust from the past.’’

The work invites viewers to engage visually and intensely participate in the experience. Untitled (Cobweb/Crossings) moves between social and personal, between history and the present, leaving little gaps for viewers to weave in their tales. It’s surprising how many stories unveil within us...

Venue: Dr. Bhau Daj Lad Museum, Byculla, Mumbai
Dates: March 3 through April, 2013
Timing: 10 am to 5:30 pm (Closed on Wednesdays)

Open to all

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