Negarra A. Kudumu | essayist and curator will present its third Curatorial Lab project, “Swapnaa Tamhane: Disparate Conditions”, opening August 3 and running through September 9. The works presented in this project represent a variety of themes, medium, and in-process investigations presented for the first time together through an online forum. Of the less obvious disparities, are the common threads and numerous ideas that form a through line connecting these objects to each other. This project serves as a way of tracing human evolution through time: it travels from the earliest attempts to construct community and communicate with crude and awkward tools to the present day where our tools have become so sophisticated that we doubt their ability to serve the very function for which they were initially created. “Disparate Conditions” situates itself as a conceptual exemplar for how artists experience space, manipulate objects, understand tools, create language, and ultimately express emotion amongst and against each other.
These works are most obviously disparate when considering the reasons why and the locations in which they were created. Supports for Unnecessary Ornamentation (2016-2017) was conceived at Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach (Germany), while A Love Poem for Paper was birthed at Space 118 in Mumbai (India). Both are commentaries on language and labor, and more specifically the ways in which individuals - specifically artists and more specifically Tamhane herself - understand and discursively interpret the work they do.
There are only two works that depict individuals and both of these were created in pencil on paper. Weightlessness (2017) depicts a beheaded skull balanced on a stick, a reminder of the artist’s childhood in Saudi Arabia where beheadings were commonplace punishment for individuals who dared go against Islamic cultural customs, all of which were enshrined in law. Tamhane makes plain the harshness of the punishment but also sends a clear message about the performativity of death and its power as political commentary.
The second work depicts an individual who was wrongly accused of impersonating another in her passport. The drawing, Suaad (2011-2013), is a portrait of a woman who was forced to spend 4 months in Nairobi after her Canadian passport was voided. Not being able to leave Kenya, it was only after DNA tests were submitted by her ex-husband and son, that she was finally granted emergency travel documents, but no apology. In 2011, Suaad sued and was rightfully awarded CAD $2.6 million dollars for the poor treatment she received from the Canadian government while abroad.
Suaad, like the other works in this project, reveals to us the precarity and fragility of certain conditions namely identity, documentation, and basic human rights. Some can enter and exit and move around these sets of conditions without issue. Others must be in constant consideration of how these conditions can turn on the, at any moment. When examined in parallel with works such as Fossil, one can locate the figurative gaps in the human trajectory where what seemed like a sure route towards understanding, succinct thought, and harmonious living, regressed into stagnant structures of violence and fear, where no consideration, human or otherwise, can thrive.
Swapnaa Tamhane is a storyteller: an artist and curator. She has been working in the arts since the mid-1990s, working across several platforms in contemporary art and design. She was an Editor at Phaidon Press, London, from 2002-2006, Assistant Curator at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto, 2007-2008, and guest curator at Museum Abteiberg Mönchengladbach, Germany, 2013-2014, as an International Museum Fellow, Kulturstiftung des Bundes. In 2016, she co-authored, jointly with fashion designer Rashmi Varma, "SĀR: The Essence of Indian Design" published by Phaidon Press. Most recently, she curated "HERE: Locating Contemporary Canadian Artists" at the Aga Khan Museum, in Toronto, Canada (July 23, 2017 to January 1, 2018). As a part of August Fröhls – an artistic collaboration with her partner Aman Sandhu – Tamhane is a guest artist and curator for their project "Portable Stories for Community Art Space: Art is Change" at the Gardiner Museum in Toronto, which runs through August 2017.
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