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GIBCA • Reena Saini Kallat
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Reena Saini Kallat

White Yarn (Silt of Reason) (2008) Silt of Season (2008) Unitled (Drawing / Map) (2011)

Extract from a conversation between Reena Saini Kallat and Stina Edblom, co-curator of Pandemonium – art in a time of Creativity Fever and curator at Göteborgs Konsthall. 

Stina Edblom Your work is highly political yet poetic and touches on a critique of India’s postcolonial constellation. Can you tell me how your art relates to the inscription of memory and identity in this context?

Reena Saini Kallat Memory in a strange way rearranges our thoughts and ideas without necessarily paying respect to hierarchies. It can either be a leveller or play a dangerous role by triggering and inciting responses to particular hurtful episodes from the past.  There’s been a long history to the subcontinent and India has an enormous sense of self-gratifying pride embedded in the collective consciousness about being the most religiously diverse country. A national belief in a pluralist, assimilative culture is handed down to every child through the education system but this history is now tarnished with ever increasing sectarianism that is often based on old wounds being re-opened. Even if my work puts a mirror to these failings, the disillusionment is paired with optimism and hope for renewal. What often occupies my mind is the fate of an individual and how s/he is susceptible to being reduced to an anonymous and forgotten statistic, in the vast ocean of humanity.

SE In your new work for the biennal, you are tracing the flows and movements of migrants across the world. Can you tell me about the significance of electrical wire, that you have chosen as your material for this work?

RSK The flows and movements of labour migrants across the world have resulted in cultural exchanges not to mention the social and economic implications. It has not only allowed to free cultural identities from a physical place but it has also allowed us to see us all as entwined in a symbolic web as it were. When I was asked to conceive of a wall work for the biennial, keeping the curatorial premise in mind I decided to work with electric wires to form the drawing that will trace patterns of movement of migrants globally, where multitudes of actors interact without knowledge of the overall situation. I think of this work as a drawing project made with wires that essentially transmit energy and information from one place to another. It is said that the electricity is the same in all electrical equipment, but the expression of electricity differs from one appliance to the next. By changing the instrument of this quasi-cartographic drawing from say a pencil line to a wire, I’m interested in the notion of the map as dynamic, ever changing, streaming and transferring data with the global flows of energies and people, as the courses of these travelers intersect.

SE Most of your work is deeply research based, speaking directly to the historical and contemporary conditions of labourers and migrants in India. 

What is your strategy in choosing the subjects of your work?

RSK I think to develop an idea one needs to try and deepen one’s understanding of it, whether it is researching from books, sharing and learning through exchange with other people or gaining an experiential understanding by visiting places. At other times research can be just a silent search trying to understand something through the act of making. It is pretty much a combination of these that I employ but it is often the work directing me rather than the other way around. 

Biography Born 1973 in India, lives and works in India. Reena Saini Kallat graduated from the Sir J.J. School of Art, Mumbai in 1996 with a B. F. A. in painting. Recent solo exhibitions are: Labyrinth of Absences, Nature Morte, New Delhi, 2011; Drift, Primo Marella Gallery, Milan, 2009. Group exhibitions include Maximum India, The Kennedy Centre, Washington, 2011; Of Gods and Goddesses, Cinema, Cricket – The New cultural Icons of India, Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, 2011; Samtidigt, Helsinki City Art Museum, Finland 2011.

Photo: Hendrik Zeitler