Thursday, January 15, 2015

Tahireh Lal's Solo at Galleryske: A Review in Art India

Some months ago, I spoke to the video artist Tahireh Lal about her solo show at Galleryske, Bengaluru. The review I wrote appears in this quarter's issue of Art India. They do not have an online link to that piece, see below for a slightly different version.

Deepa Bhasthi traces how Tahireh Lal addresses the idea and experience of being a traveller.

The Hourglass. Glass, metal, motor, wood, sand. 48” x 36”. 2013. Image courtesy: Galleryske

Home is not always a physical space; it is, for someone who moves often, a set of feelings that is constantly processual and changing. It is a sense of this transience that is instantly apparent in Tahireh Lal's solo Metaphysical Gravity at Galleryske, Bangalore, which was on show from the 11th of October to the 22nd of November. Lal, who describes herself as a video artist with a material and time-based practice, brings together moving images and kinetic sculptures to contemplate the idea of not having any fixed address.

In the audio loop Bird: B3:d B3:rd  Lal gets friends to articulate the word 'Bird' in the accent and in the manner they would employ in their native countries. By showing how a common word sometimes becomes unrecognizable, the artist explores the subtle changes we make in ourselves in a distant land if we have to make ourselves understood.

The rest of the show has work featuring sand from the beaches on Toronto Island; she found the sand here to be curiously tri-coloured - white, red and black from the iron particles. In Abundance Protected, a triptych, she separates the red and black in the sand to create auspicious rangoli or kollam patterns, the act of drawing she is culturally familiar with. The accompanying video of her drawing a pattern on the sand – red upon white  –  and the wall works seek to invoke protection for the homes on the Island which are under threat from municipal authorities.

Advice from a resident to "throw a magnet into the sand" to pick out the black particles led to Lal’s interest in magnets. The power of a magnet is also a reference to the recurring pull of home. The Hourglass, a meditative reflection on the passing nature of time, uses magnets to hold on to parts of the sand in permanent suspension, calling attention to the constant conflict while measuring time in unfamiliar places. As the hourglass moves in a circular cycle, it throws poetic shadows on the wall. Time seems to acquire a new shape in relation to that which is routine and familiar. The leitmotif of home continues in Sandcastles in the Air, where magnets, periodically activated, attract the iron particles in the sand to trigger sandcastles along a vertical axis. The work is installed in a horizontal niche in a wall. The shapes and sizes of these sandcastles are never constant, just like, for those leading peripatetic lives, having homes in different places are acts of constant building and un-building.

Sifting/Shifting, a dual channel video loop, addresses constant mobility and how even when there is a moving ahead, there are some things that persist in staying on. One channel focuses on the multi-coloured sand and the act of motion while the adjacent video starts as a clean slate and quickly fills up with red sand grains. The work dwells on how the new, over time, becomes a site of the known and the familiar.

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