With | Avec : Pierre Michelon, Birender Kumar Yadav, Aqui Thami
March 14th – May 31st 2019
Mumbai Art Room, India
Mumbai Art Room’s second curatorial lab in partnership with Pro Helvetia – Swiss Art Council is pleased to host ‘ कृपया ध्यान दीिजए | Allow me a letter ’, an exhibition by Swiss based curator Bénédicte le Pimpec. The exhibition features an installation by Delhi based artist Birender Kumar Yadav, a film by French based artist Pierre Michelon and a workshop by Aqui Thami, a Bombay based artist and activist.
A letter, addressed, anonymous, threatening or filled with love, is also mute, inspired, exalted, or repeated, whether public or secret. As a formal character of a curved alphabet in a sonic frequency, out-loud or inaudible, it sometimes ends up on the wall of an official building, in the mouth of polyglots, or sought after in Colaba, the hip neighbourhood of south Bombay.
Using several languages (Bengali, Hindi, English, French), this exhibition occupies the Mumbai Art Room venue and spills over into the surrounding public place. It presupposes that discourses, as forms of social action representing society and culture, are ideologically and historically guided, and that there is never any neutrality, be it of language or its use.
Birender Kumar Yadav copies the sentence ‘Government work is god’s work’ seen on the pediment of the Vidhana Soudha building, hub of power and legislative seat of the state of Karnataka, and installs it at the entrance to the exhibition. In so doing, he changes the referent and, by a simple shift, alters the relation between this sentence and its installation context. Unity/Diversity, the artist’s second piece, is a hijacked flag of the State of Karnataka, which has claimed its own flag since 2018. This flag refers directly to the rise of forms of regionalism in India, and the complex socio-cultural situation of a federal state with more than 2,000 languages and dialects.
On the other hand, Pierre Michelon’s film Tepantar finds in Bengal an ideal outward point for talking about France “with a small f”. The voice of the French journalist and novelist Guy Hocquenghem is mixed with that of Marguerite Duras in the film India Song, to the cackling of chicks in the Tepantar theatre and the voice of gay activist Michel Chomarat. The whole thing collides in the mouth of Sudipta Mitra Datta, Bengali translator of the passages from La beauté du Métis, réflexion d’un francophobe (1978) by Hocquenghem. Tepantar is not so much a criticism of a country as a complex line of thinking about the power structures inherent in any nation, and proposes a dream of statelessness.
In this context, the artist and activist Aqui Thami proposes Bombay Signs, a workshop offering a children’s group a chance to explore the neighbourhood surrounding the exhibition venue, to reclaim the signs scattered in the public place. This workshop will take place on March 16th for a mixed group of children from Dharavi and Colaba’s local government school.