We shape our image and thereafter our image shapes us
By Jacob Korczynski
“There is something to confess: your speaker likes to leave a movie theater. Back out on the more or less empty, more or less brightly lit sidewalk (it is invariably at night, and during the week, that he goes), and heading uncertainly for some café or other, he walks in silence (he doesn’t like discussing the film he’s just seen), a little dazed, wrapped up in himself…”
In his 1975 essay, Leaving the Movie Theater, Roland Barthes begins by placing his reader in a liminal space that is encountered by the author: exiting the architecture of a cinema, he moves us out to the architectural assemblage of the street which offers a multiplicity of available spaces that will further determine the body. Likewise, each screening is an assemblage. We form a temporary autonomous space, one that is composed of a social contract entered upon when we gather together within the architecture of the auditorium in the dark. The space of the cinema amplifies not only our location, but also what lies outside of it. For Monitor 8, what lies within the frame is the continuous reshaping of the contemporary South Asian cityscape, as well as reshaping of the bodies that locate themselves within it.
In the cinema our body falls away once the architecture is engaged, and we find ourselves found again when the light of the projector is extinguished and the auditorium reveals itself. The tension between a recognition and resistance of the body permeates Promotesh Das Pulak’s Echoed Moments in Time, a photo series that anchors Monitor 8 through first appearing on the poster you hold, and again when projected as digital slides in the cinema between each of the films and videos in the screening. In Echoed Moments in Time the artist appropriates archival photographs of the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, inserting his contemporary presence into the visual history by meticulously digitally placing his own face onto the multiple bodies captured in the single image. Here he stands collectively alone.
Before we turn to our body, let us begin with the basics, of objects in space before they transition from an individual to a collective role. A cursory scan of a room reveals the prepatory materiality of various extant objects on their way to becoming – assemblages in states of being and undoing. The roomtone of the space you inhabit right now is folded into that of another space in a different time in Kitsum Cheung’s Delta: My Lovely Tidings, A. We move through a field where meaning accrues mysteriously and the accumulated objects interact according to the scale of the artist’s making.
Questions of scale are posed throughout Ekta Mittal and Yashaswini Raghunandan’s In_Transience, tracing corporate and state resources in the service of continuously re-defining the landscape of Bangalore. Mittal and Raghunandan do not limit the auto-ethnography of In_Transience to the material, but specifically take in the immaterial, through interviews with workers who directly relay their encounters with the ghosts of the unfinished urban landscape – spirits that shift uncomfortably between the undefined borders of workplace and workcamp, sites that like the spirits, are subject to change.
The frame of the built environment falls away as the ephemeral moment unfolds in Tahrieh Lal’s Silence Elsewhere. Her video offers the languid view of the landscape filled by a frame within a frame, distorting and reflecting what lies both before and beyond outside.
The title of Panchal Mansaram’s film Rear-View Mirror refers first and foremost to the quote attributed to Marshall McLuhan: “We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.” The environment in the film Mansaram initially shot in 1971 are reflected back twofold, first as an Indian artist who migrated to Canada looking back at his nation of origin and second as a historical document to which the artist has recently returned, re-editing the film via video.
A return of the artist to a historical body continues in Isolation of Pectoralis Major (Version 2) by Sukanya Ghosh. Here, an assembly of images reminiscent of the early motion studies by Eadward Muybridge and Etienne-Jules Marey is but one layer of an evolving collage.
Jan Villa chronicles an architecture of remembrance when Natasha Mendonca returns to her home city of Mumbai after the floods of 2005. The improvisary mode of diaristic filmmaking deployed by Mendonca draws upon the gesture of her hand in framing and following an image – one that always remains adjacent.
A kind of collaboration between Ashiq Khondker and the collective Gelitin, Blind Film was the product of a process – namely Gelitin’s 2010 exhibition Blind Sculpture at Greene Naftali in New York. With the members of the collective blindfolded and assisted in their sculpture making by those whose vision remained unimpaired, Khondker’s film which was also made sight unseen pulls one layer of the palimpsest away from the project.
In Tal Amiran’s Facades the hard edges and soft material of scale model architecture manufactured to be seen at a remove forms a landscape of ellipses. While the camera does aurally register the texture of the studio, it is no longer roomtone that fills the space between us and the environment, but the refraction of light, as flashbulbs burst and the image suddenly becomes closer.
Like the cinema, let’s exit by the way we entered. Returning to Leaving the Movie Theatre Roland Barthes asks: “What does the ‘darkness’ of the cinema mean?” He answers: “In this darkness of the cinema…lies the very fascination of the film (any film).” He speaks of being fascinated twice over, by the image and by its surroundings – the body and the building.
Jacob Korczynski is an independent curator who recently participated in the de Appel Curatorial Programme in Amsterdam. He is currently the Assistant Curator at the Art Gallery of York University in Toronto.