• identity politics




    For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt confined by my body. Not only in a gender-dysphoric manner, which I’m coming to terms with as largely due to social norms restricting my possibilities of expression, but rather in a this-is-a-spacesuit-and-i-need-to-get-out-of-it-now manner of anxiety. I feel my ability to consciously eject is intrinsically linked to my knowledge of the apparatus that keeps me tethered to this physical reality. Where will I go when I’m free to leave? Maybe I should I take more care of my body..—————Curious to understand death and the continuous nature of life, Yardena Kurulkar first experimented with clay, the material she considers as most closely reflecting the human form. She has recently started working with 3D printing technology, which she finds ‘can dissect and analyse the components that make us mortal.’(1)  In her journey to identify a tune remembered from her childhood, the artist discovered a song sung at Bene Israeli funerals, a hark back to her upbringing. Kurulkar, based in Mumbai, created a 3D replica of her skull, inverted it and converted it into a vessel filled with water. This was charged with the song, recreated on a cello, from which arose a series of black and white photographs Earworm (2018, 426” x 45”, Inkjet print on Hahnemuhle Photo rag). The enigmatic images, lying somewhere between a starscape and a graph, create the illusion of transmitting data, of reporting back from the quest to capture the nature of intangible debris that collects over our material continuums. .—————I always look forward to meeting old trees. Their gross and stabilized energy systems—thanks to their mature grounding mechanisms, I imagine—allow for deep irrational interactions of our intangible bodies. An act of perceiving rather than purely encountering; of dipping into a deep reservoir, unafraid of drowning..—————Neha Kudchadkar—trained as a dancer—starts her ceramic inquiries from the corporeality of the body. Prodding and pulling, stretching and moulding, she pokes holes into the notions of entity, enclosure, home, and structure. Her creations often become extensions of limbs and digits, redefining the extents of the physical body. Continuing this investigation, she measured the outer area of her body and used this information to create an equisized sheet of clay. This sheet was fragmented, each separated shard was individually held, felt, contoured, and fired, to produce Molt (2019, variable dimensions, ceramic). When seen spread across the floor of a room, the arrangement takes on an unpredictable collectivity, presenting a labyrinth one may traverse in search for the existence of the immutable self..—————What is the relationship between collectivity and agency? Am I defined by my sphere of control? How does control get translated into bits and bytes? Hito Styryl respects the right for technology to go on strike(2). Whose side does that put her on? Which side is left?.—————Lucas Lugarinho, living and practicing in Mexico City, considers himself a top-notch employee. Collaborating with his office staff—his laptop, mobile phone, and budget projector—Lugarinho produces paintings for his employers The Images. Members of the Image family travel far across the internet to reach the office, where they undergo a long process that renders them as pigment on physical surface. Soon after the devastating fire at the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro in 2018, a 3D image of Luzia’s skull found its way to Lugarinho. Luzia, the name given to the Upper Paleolithic period skeleton of a Paleo-Indian woman believed to be amongst the first wave of immigrants to South America, was greatly destroyed in the fire; her fossilized remains badly fragmented. For the artist, ‘her continued existence is bound to her digital data [… which] now seeks refuge in virtual platforms, news channels and even memes’(3).  As a way of rearchiving, Lugarinho fed this image back into Google’s neural network hallucination program: the Deep Dream. The painting Luzia’s Dream (2018, 50 x 60 cm, oil and acrylic on canvas) captures this moment within the endless circulation of data, an unexpected collision of ancestral deep time with uncertain digital futurity..—————One of the ways in which pop-culture gets closest to understanding the nature of reality is through the conspiracy theory of living in a coded simulation run by an advanced civilization. I find this utterly fascinating, simultaneously terrifying and completely true. Although two tenets must be added here: One, our physical reality, even though it is only a simulation of ‘code’, is as real as the code that creates it; and two, the advanced programmers of our simulation are in continuum with ourselves. Second century philosopher Nagarjuna offers great insights in his treatises on Shunyata (4)..—————Deploying performance, moving image and architectural intervention, Julie Béna deconstructs the traditions of narrative storytelling. As part of an ongoing reflection on transparency, the artist populates the polymorphic, 3D-animated world of Opportunity with characters inspired by research at the anatomical museum in Palazzo Poggi, Bologna. Through Anna & the Jester in Window of Opportunity (2019, Single Channel Video), Béna ‘demands new definitions for who gets to be human, while questioning the systems and architectures that regulate and govern (in)visible bodies.’(5) The film’s post-human aesthetics—created in collaboration with Sybil Montet and Simon Kounovsky—juxtaposed with an all-too-human existential voice deeply shake the illusions of stability that we create to navigate our known reality.

    This text was written in the framework of the exhibition All That is in This Thing by Neha Kudchadkar at Display.

    (1) Amita Kini-Singh, “So it Goes”: Indian artist Yardena Kurulkar’s personal explorations of life and death – in conversation”, ArtRadar

    (2) Hito Styryl, “Photography and Political Agency”, The New School, 2013.

    (3) Lucas Lugarinho, Unpublished manuscript, 2019

    (4) Shunyata imperfectly translates to emptiness or nothingness. Read more in Nagarjuna, “Dialectical Method of Nagarjuna–Vigrahavyavartani”, translated by Kamleshwar Bhattacharya. 

    (5) Laura Herman, “Anna & the Jester in Window of Opportunity” Exhibition text, Jeu De Paume, 2019