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Of myths, shared history across diverse cultures
NIDHI GUPTA  22nd Dec 2012

oland Barthes, in the preface to his seminal book Mythologies, vents his frustration at the manner in which media and society around him was intent on dressing up daily incidents and events as 'natural', where in reality, they were actually governed by forces of history. The Stainless Gallery's latest exhibition, taking a cue from Barthes, dives into the deep end of a vast sea of symbolic connections that seem to be bridging two unlikely neighbours – India and South Korea.

'Whose History? Which Stories', a show featuring contemporary art works by ten Indian and South Korean artists, and curated by Oindrilla Maity Surai, is an exploration of the many similarities and idiosyncrasies that the two nations depict. "Most Koreans claimed that they are descendants of an Indian king marrying a Korean princess. I see these connections as attempts to reach out to each other. It is this tendency that got me thinking," she explains.

Surai says she found it intriguing to discover the various means through which the two countries sought to build ties – economic and diplomatic pacts apart, it was the usage of myths, of shared history, and then a common current experience.

So while SangHwa Park's videos from the Inner Dream series portray the pessimism of the 21st century, saying that modern science and technology have brought about a certain degree of evil too, Yong Tae Kim's photographs address memory and history through overlapping, blurred images, where war sites and personal remembrance are brought together in the form of light scrolls. ChangWon Lee's People of Trial: 2010 plays with photographs – negatives and prints – to etch out a haunting narrative of the futility of war. Siyon Jin, in his video projection Flow explores technology as a means of mediating the past and the future.

While war and its aftermath continue to haunt the South Korean artistic sensibility, their Indian counterparts in this exhibition infuse a deeper complexity into issues of over-development, modernity and the like. Atul Bhalla's The Listener from the West Heavens uses his research on the drainage system as a metaphor for taking the pulse of the city. Praneet Soi's video projections in Drawing Machine become a harbinger of homecoming, nostalgia, migration and the associate anxiety of those on the margins. Gigi Scaria's video installation Amusement Park imagines a logical extension of utopia where the city absolves all sense of identity, putting humans and humanity on the assembly line. Finally Prajakta Pallav's Please Have A Bite is a chunk-sized take on urban consumerism.

The show succeeds in building the sense of resonance it seeks to foster between the experiences of the two countries. Myth, being the equivocal element that seems to hold all social life together, retains relevance because on it are anchored events of the past, depicting "how quickly history diffuses and how spaces are made to hide consequences from us," as Surai puts it.

Venue: Stainless Gallery

Date: 28 December


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