Dayanita Singh. Museum of Machines

The MAST Foundation presents the first Italian solo show of Dayanita Singh, Indian photographer protagonist of the international art scene. Since the nineties she explores the relational and allusive potential of image and a new visual fruition mode resulting from the composition of expository or editorial sequences. After an early career marked by the canons of photojournalism, the artist has progressively moved away from the aim to document and describe traditionally attributed to realistic photography for dissolving its conventional certainties in a mix of poetic suggestions that reveal how its action field will be open and boundless. Disdaining the signifier and the preeminence of the decisive moment to bring out the hidden clues and the intrinsic polysemy of reality, Singh builds her shots as introverts puzzles that elude any precise matching of time and place to urge the intimate adhesion of the viewer and his logical and emotional overlays.

The artist’s original photographic corpus, that is an inexhaustible array from which she draws for the creation of thematic books produced in collaboration with publisher Steidl, is kept and exhibited in modular wooden structures composed of freely combined tables, benches, screens and secret containers which together constitute the Bhavan Museum, a collection of image-objects that grows with the progress of her work.The paper and sculptural layout becomes a structural and conceptual interface that materializes the value of editing as an artistic operation in which the juxtaposition / collision of seemingly objective representations creates an infinite narrative and emotional flow. So the implicit levels of each shot, emphasized and revealed by sequences from time to time proposed, bring out unsuspected links between photographs taken in different times and places, giving rise to a further proliferation of “museums” that identify particular issues and formal similarities among the totality share. Born this way also the series Museum of Machines (recent acquisition of Collection MAST), Museum of Industrial Kitchen, Office Museum, Museum of Printing Machines, Museum of Men and File Museum in the exhibition that tell the places of life and production capturing the evocative and dreamlike essence as an organic constellation of silent obsessions. The exhibition begins with shots of Blue Book, a collection of photographs turned to blue because of an initial film processing error which became a distinctive feature of the series that portrays the great modern Indian industrial complex in a suffused and unreal atmosphere. The absence of specific references despite the rigor of details and the evocation of human presence only through the traces of use on various objects dissolves the hostility of the landscape in a lush elegy of abandonment and loneliness.

The technical and functional facilities within those sheds are individually analyzed in the Museum of Machines and Museum of Industrial Kitchen, two series consisting of small-format pictures that the artist presented in modular grids which recall the typological photography of Bernd and Hilla Becher. If the German couple scanned and classified reality purifying it from contingencies to return it in an exact and ultimate shape, Singh seems to pretend a similar impersonal approach to show in the different repetition of her models the intriguing variations of tone, light and textures that reveal the engaging physicality of machinery. Through her gaze anonymous equipment become sculptures and entities with autonomous personality, may be the conditions of mysterious stories buried in the memory or even enclosed in power in the cumbersome industriousness of their gear, they are able to establish symbiotic and empathetic relationships with the workers that govern their mode of operation. The vertical and horizontal reading sequences suggested by the exhibition structures arranged by the artist gather the images depending on temperament and character in an exponential proliferation of analogies and contrasts playing with the relentless unfolding of possibilities that ripple the surface of things, making unique also the most mundane emergencies. The conceptual and poetic premise underpinning Dayanita Singh’s work is even more evident in the File Museum series dedicated to the documentation of Indians archives where closets, bags and shelves full of books and folders saturate the space with the weight of secrets that will become increasingly indecipherable. Grew up on themselves as organic creatures not too dissimilar from the mold that sometimes can be seen on the walls as a silent threat to the integrity of the documents, these mazes organized according to the subjective logic of each guardian materialize the struggle between order and chaos that the photographer has to faceto locate an image in a portion of reality and the randomness that after rules its attribution of meaning.Celebration of paper in the age of digital information, File Museum is perhaps the most representative series of the artist’s fascination with life as inextricable cluster of experiences and with the unexplained occurrences that assimilate stories and destinies originally detached.

Dayanita Singh. Museum of Machines.
curated by Urs Stahel
October 12  2016 – January 8 2017
MAST, Via Speranza 42, Bologna

Blue Book 18, dalla serie “Blue Book”, 2008. C-print, 62 x 65 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Frith Street Gallery, London ©Dayanita Singh

Senza titolo, dalla serie “Museum of Industrial Kitchen”, 2016. Archival pigment print, 30 x 30 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Frith Street Gallery, London ©Dayanita Singh

Senza titolo, dalla serie “Museum of Men – Recent”, 2013. Archival pigment print, 30 x 30 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Frith Street Gallery, London ©Dayanita Singh

Senza titolo, dalla serie “Museum of Printing Press”, 2015. Archival pigment print, 38 x 38 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Frith Street Gallery, London. ©Dayanita Singh


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