Hold On

by Deepika Sorabjee

In the soaring May temperatures of Mumbai, the atmosphere was considerably cooler at Gallery Maskara. There were icebergs and melting ice; virtually and literally.

Highlighting a world of constant flux, ‘Hold On’ brought 5 artist’s works together to “explore the conceptual, material and sensory thresholds of ‘holding on’: they grasp, retain and sustain, amidst that which is fleeting, thawing and decaying.” Video, installation, photographs and performance art addressed a pausing of erosion: of the earth’s resources, of time, of processes in the repetitive actions of man.

Marek Ranis, Himasaila Project, 2011, Site-specific installation, Fabric, ice, blue pigment, aluminum, Dimension variable. Image courtesy: Gallery Maskara, Mumbai

The most empowering work was literally that: responding to the space, Polish artist Marek Ranis (in collaboration with Jonathan Case), using video and sculpture, brought a vast landscape in. In his video he melds images of a speeding NASCAR racecar with the melting icebergs of Greenland, a pithy comment on the rapidity of environmental erosion. Ranis used the space well. Suspended from the soaring ceiling, the dramatic site-specific draped sculpture, Himasaila Project, 2011, hung to mid height: shrouds of white cotton cloth whose endloops, dipped in blue household bleach, held ice blocks.

As one stood at the far corner of this vast space, up on the left hand corner of the projection just a tiny shadow was cast of the cotton cloth dripping water. As the ice melted the drip-drip-drip shadow cast against blurred lines of speed, made the video all the more poignant; like an hourglass emptying of sand, foreboding of time running out.

In ‘Waterline’ the collaborative Satellite Bureau (Hamilton, Southern and St Amand from Canada and the U.K.) contrasts local versus global, the wooden skeleton of a ‘regional fishing boat’ made on site, leans precariously, tied by fishing lines to the wall. On standing back to see the boat in it’s entire scaled up form, the solid and delicate ‘shadow drawing’ of the framework, fell on a digital print depicting shipping paths showing the extent of oceans being trawled mercilessly.

The straight grid of the digital print showing the coalescing of repeated GPS route markings contrasted well with the slightly askew grid of the skeleton of the boat, both the warp in the boat’s grid and the push outwards of the frame created a formal tension with the holding fishing lines pulling the boat in, seemingly straining to hold on to a waterline.

Baroda-based Mansoor Ali, uses chairs again, it seems to be a leitmotif in his practice. He debuted two years ago, in a group show with a monumental pile ‘Dance of Democracy’. Corruption and governance, very au courant, is his concern. Here in a reversal of scale, miniature chairs are chained together in ‘Alliance IV’ mocking the dubious coalition merges seen in Indian politics as ideologically different political parties try to ‘hold on’ to power. In ‘Beautifully Corrupt’, a chair is devoured by termites; insidiously corrupted from within.

In ‘3 Simple Sculptures’, American artist, Josh Smith’s minimalist installation was   placed on delicate risers which came flat packed from the US and were assembled here, a handmade particularity the artist wanted to emphasize on. In an era of disposables; he throws a question at quick consumption. In two performative pieces, Canadian Stuart Keeler walked Mumbai’s roads; passersby were asked to daub him with green paint alerting them to forgotten or disappearing urban green spaces.

Marek Ranis in collaboration with Jonathan Case, Hold On, 2010, Single channel video, color, sound, loop, 3 minutes 11 seconds. Image courtesy: Gallery Maskara, Mumbai

The works in ‘Hold On’ appear quiet at first glance, yet in these static tableaus in the gallery, the undercurrent of anxiety and urgency is conveyed forcefully especially in Hold On, Himasaila Project and Waterline.

Co–curators Avantika Bawa and Celina Jeffrey bring together disparate forms, which work individually but somehow did not cohesively bind into a strong statement. The site specific works score over the others: Maris’ work dominates and was offset visually and sea worthily rather beautifully with Satellite Bureau. The other works, then, seemed to lose out in the visual field and the thought provoking images one left the gallery with.

Hold On, June 1 – July 3, 2011, Gallery Maskara, Mumbai



Deepika Sorabjee obtained her MBBS degree from the Grant Medical College (Bom Univ) and the Sir J.J. Group of Hospitals, and a diploma in Indian Aesthetics from Jnanapravaha, Mumbai. She is a writer based in Mumbai and is training to be an art conservator.


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