Excerpt from Between the Waves, Channel II - Landfill dance, single channel video installation, 2012
Between the Waves is vivid and lush, this 5-channel video installation was first presented at dOCUMENTA (13) and presented here is one channel from the larger installation. Shah creates sensual, poetic, heterotopic landscapes within which she places subjects that inhabit personal/political metaphors – embodiments of the queer, eco-sexual, inter-special, technological, spiritual and scientific. Their activities feel archaic and futuristic at the same time, primitive but filled with urgency and agency. How did they arrive in these immersive environments, which surround them and also us? Both seductive and visceral, they could be spaces of refuge or expulsion.
Multiple historic and mythological references are layered, woven and problematised. That which is perhaps most obvious is the reference to Rebecca Horn's Einhorn, which in turn references Frida Kahlo. Horn has described the subject in Einhorn (Unicorn) as “very bourgeois”, the (female) creature walks elegantly, more like a mythical creature than an animal, naked but asexual. Shah’s subjects, however, are neither bourgeois or asexual. They are base and unselfconscious, embodying a ritualistic and intuitive exploration, unapologetically seeking closeness.
In another channel we see alphabets spelled out to us, one at a time, a dactylic sensory assault. These letters form poems that were commissioned for the project. Our grasp of the text though depends on our cognition, we gain impressions and words in an endless verbal eclipse. When we learn that the formal presentation is generated by ripping an iPhone Morse code app, once again references are displaced.
Shah’s work becomes practically and publicly political through its situated context and her subject positions. The making and dissemination of radical works such as Between the Waves is a real challenge for artists in India where freedom of speech and creative expression all too often face serious censorship from state and non-state actors. Actions of love, sensuality or sexuality being performed by her subjects can be read as assertively political – articulating the right of a subjectivity beyond the scripted gender binary enforced through various expressions of social as well as state repressions in contemporary democracies.
Credit list for Between the Waves [pdf] [/hidden]
Between the Waves, Galerie Barbara Gross, Munich
Between the Waves, Project 88, Mumbai
Between the Waves, Transmission Gallery, Glasgow
Exihibition in Pomegranate Colour, Solyanka State Gallery, Moscow, curated by Ekaterina Bochavar, Daria Khan, Vyacheslav Shmyrov
Censorship: Move On Asia, Seoul, curated by Johan Pijnapple
Take Me Elsewhere, Vanity Projects, New York, curated by Diana Campbell Betancourt
No One Belongs Here More Than You - 54th October Salon, Belgrade, curated by Danijela Dugandzic Zivanovic, katja Kobolt, Dunja Kukovec and Jelena Petrovic
The Present Order is the Disorder of the Future, Museum Kurhaus Kleve, Germany, curated by Harald Kunde
Landings - The World Turned Inside Out, Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, curated by Natasha Ginwala and Vivian Ziherl
My Dear, You Shouldn't Believe in Fairytales, 2P Contemporary, Hong Kong, curated by Angel Wong
dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel, curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev
Cinema of Prayoga, The Bioscope, Johannesburg
Hors Pistes Tokyo, Tokyo
BFI Flare: 28th LGBT Film Festival, London
CIRCUITO OFF International Film Festival, Venice
Another Experiment by Women Film Festival (AXWFF), Anthology Archives, New York
Le Rencontres Internationales Festival, Palais de Tokyo, Paris
Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin
Cineteca - Matadero, Madrid
Lost + Found, Theatrum Anatomicum De Waag, Amsterdam
Movements, SHIFT Project space, Berlin.
The Rencontres Internationales Festival, Paris