Reena Saini Kallat
1–31 November 2020
“Through much of my work over the last decade and a half I've explored the border, the territory and the map thinking of how these man-made incisions on the ground decide the fate of citizens on either side of the border and the implications to their lives. While borders are a political construct I've primarily been interested in the psychological, social barriers between people more than the physical borders themselves.”
- Reena Saini Kallat
Shifting Ecotones expands the artist’s meditation on borders by examining lines drawn in and on water, from rivers that form contested national boundaries to borders set over open seas. At such waterscapes claimed by rival nations, territorial assertions merge with conflicts over scarce resources; river water to feed fields and hydropower plants, as well as precious mineral and oil deposits that lie beneath the sea.
The absurdity of national efforts to discipline and claim ever-moving bodies of water is alluded to in the work where the landscape, divided into grids by an unknown hand, appears like a muddled puzzle board with a missing piece.
An ‘ecotone’ is the transition zone between two biomes. Biologists have observed that such zones where two diverge landscapes merge foster greater biological diversity than either of the bordering biomes. Amidst grim visions of division and conflict, the term evokes the positive fertile potential of borderscapes, both natural and cultural.
ABOUT REENA SAINI KALLAT
Reena Saini Kallat’s (b. 1973, Delhi, India) practice spanning drawing, photography, sculpture and video is concerned with ideas that hold each other in tension—barriers in a world of mobility, porosity in sites of fissure, memorialisation in the aftermath of amnesia, and the promise and illegibility of national legal documents. Kallat’s interest in political and social borders—and their violent cleaving through land, people and nature—resonates with the continuing aftershocks of the Partition in India, which her family experienced. Kallat has researched various histories of migration, the plunder of shared natural resources for national gain, and archives of disappeared people. The figure of the hybrid has come to hold symbolic potential in Kallat’s practice, as a truant against dividing lines and divisive national narratives. That barriers give way, and can be subverted, is an idea that is pronounced in Kallat’s work using electric cables twisted to resemble barbed wire. She uses the paradox of the existence of technology for free flow of information and restriction on movement to suggest that total isolation is not possible. Where there is contact there is exchange and fusion.
Memory is an important site of investigation, to regard not only what we choose to remember but also how we think of the past. Using the motif of the rubber stamp both as object and imprint, signifying the bureaucratic apparatus, Kallat has worked with officially recorded or registered names of people, objects, and monuments that are lost or have disappeared without a trace, only to get listed as anonymous and forgotten statistics. Kallat reinscribes them in the collective imagination, using the tools of the state to picture bodies that reside at its margins. Kallat is particularly interested in foundational legal texts, and the words therein that give nations legitimacy. In them, she highlights universal principles of freedom and equality, as well as their tendency to create an enemy for their own sustenance. Kallat’s examinations highlight the limits of perception, of both individuals and societies, to reveal blind spots that might allow the clearing of shared vision.
Her work is widely exhibited at institutions including the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), New York; Migros Museum of Contemporary Art, Zurich; Tate Modern, London; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul; Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; SITE SantaFe, New Mexico; Minneapolis Institute of Art, Minnesota; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Saatchi Gallery, London; Arken Museum of Modern Art, Denmark; Helsinki City Art Museum, Finland; Pirelli Hangar Bicocca, Milan; ZKM Museum of Contemporary Art, Karlsruhe; Oscar Niemeyer Museum, Curitiba; SESC Pompeia and SESC Belenzino in Sao Paulo; IVAM Museum, Spain; Göteborgs Konsthall, Sweden; Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Israel; Campbelltown Arts Centre, Sydney; MOCA, Shanghai; Busan MOMA; Chicago Cultural Centre amongst several others.
Her solo exhibitions at Museums include the National Museum of Asian Arts - Guimet, Paris (2020); the Manchester Museum (2017), Offsite, Vancouver Art Gallery (2015), Bhau Daji Lad Museum (2013), Kennedy Centre (2011). She has participated at the Bangkok Art Biennale (2020); Havana Biennial (2019); Busan Biennale (2016), Goteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art (2011), the Vancouver International Sculpture Biennale (2011), the Asian Art Biennale, Taiwan (2009) besides others.
Her works are part of several public and private collections including Musee de Beaux Arts, Ottawa; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; Manchester Museum, UK; National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taichung; Vancouver Art Gallery, Canada; Norrtalje Konsthall, Sweden; Initial Access (Frank Cohen Collection), UK; Pizzuti Collection, Ohio; Burger Collection, Hongkong; Fondazione Golinelli, Italy; Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi; Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai; National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi amongst others.
She lives and works in Mumbai, India
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