Exhibition view of “Floating World,” part of the “Aesthetic Bind” series, with NS Harsha’s Waha Say Idhar, Idhar Say Udar (2014) on the floor and Hema Upadhyay’s intricate matchstick chandeliers on the left, at Chemould Prescott Road, 2014, Mumbai. Courtesy Chemould Prescott Road.

Aesthetic Bind

Floating World

Chemould Prescott Road

In the opening lines of her poem “We’re Extremely Fortunate” (1998), Polish poet, essayist and translator Wislawa Szymborska writes: “We’re extremely fortunate / not to know precisely / the kind of world we live in. / One would have / to live a long, long time, / unquestionably longer / than the world itself. / Get to know other worlds / if only for comparison.” This condition of not knowing reverberated through “Aesthetic Bind,” a suite of five exhibitions curated by the formidable art historian and critic Geeta Kapur since September last year, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of Chemould Prescott Road (formerly Gallery Chemould) in Mumbai.

In these exhibitions, Kapur has sought to escape fixedness and embraced complexity, kinesis and even nebulousness, through a combinatorial play of artworks. Five acts, “Subject of Death” (2013), “Citizen Artist: forms of address” (2013), “Phantomata” (2014), “Cabinet Closet Wunderkammer” (2014) and finally, “Floating World,” were all held together by the wunderkammer principal, with Kapur’s carefully calibrated exhibition spaces inviting viewers to feel their way through each display.

Reena Saini Kallat’s Untitled (2014), composed of electric wires and fittings, spread across a wall in “Floating World” at Chemould Prescott Road, Mumbai, 2014. Courtesy Chemould Prescott Road.

Discussing “Aesthetic Bind” in relation to her rigorous theorizing on modern and avant-garde movements, Kapur, a seasoned curator, told AAP that she is “freer now to elicit meaning from art works in terms of their sensuous presence; formal status; and signifying gestures.”

The first exhibition in the series “Subject of Death,” which was on view in September and October last year, was dedicated to  the revered Indian artist Bhupen Khakhar, who died in 2003. Organized with this intuitive logic, the exhibit included paintings from the last two decades of the artist’s life, countering mortality and the finite nature of flesh with the infinite meanings produced by the artworks.

It seems apposite then that the series concluded with “Floating Worlds,” which took a more kinetic form of introspection, inviting viewers to assume an existential position. In NS Harsha’s Waha Say Idhar, Idhar Say Udar (2014), for example, a dirfting cluster of bodies, was painted directly on the gallery’s cement floor. These itinerant individuals’ swirling quality is characteristic of Harsha’s work.

On a neighboring wall, Reena Saini Kallat’s Untitled (2014) sat aloof. The warp and weft of this unconventional textile is composed of wires and sound, reminding us of the possibilities that have opened up as a result of hyperspace, which enables us to transcend physical borders.

In her curatorial note for the exhibition, Kapur identifies the intricate matchstick chandeliers by Hema Upadhyay as “a curatorial anomaly and a detonative effect in the phenomenology of an otherwise even-handed exhibition.” This illuminating and combustive artwork is therefore a compelling trope for Kapur’s visual transcript of performing, extending, resisting, transitioning and witnessing objects.

The last “Aesthetic Bind” exhibition “Floating World” was on view at Chemould Prescott Road from March 19 through April 17, 2014.

Gitanjali Dang is a writer based in in Mumbai.