Thursday, 29 September 2011

The Sorrows of the City of Joy - Leena Kejriwal [review]

Leena Kejriwal’s installation of photographs, Entropic Sites, curated by Shaheen Merali at Shrine Empire Gallery, New Delhi, from the 21st of January to the 21st February, 2011, presented an intriguing study of the city of Kolkata. Superimposed photographs were hung from the floor to the ceiling. Speaking voices from a documentary on human trafficking jarred with their American accents. Hung light bulbs in the centre of the room evoked an atmosphere rather than illuminate the works on the walls packed with images of Subhash Chandra Bose.

The coloured photographs were re-worked to create caricatures or ghostly ‘absent presences’ of people. An empty cubbyhole added to this, while the disembodied voices created a sense of displacement. Babu on the Terrace augmented this sense of dislocation, where a Babu was seen on a Victorian terrace overlooking a crowded, middle-class residential complex. Dressed in dhoti and kurta, wearing a supercilious expression, he seemed to look into the horizon. The sky above was covered with menacing predatory birds. Kejriwal probably intended to depict the arrogant Babu preying upon a disputable inheritance and through the solarized images she probably intended to comment on the carelessness of the upper class Bengali gentry.

However, the inclusion of a documentary on prostitution in the show confused both the intent and content. Its pertinence was lost thanks to the overloaded commentary. If Kejriwal intended to evoke guilt, she failed, revealing instead, that such complex situations require greater objectivity and sensitivity in selection and presentation.