Image Credit: Experimenter & Bani Abidi.
As you enter the gallery through a narrow alley you see a man piling up hundreds of rows of grey plastic chairs, in a video. You walk towards it and take a seat to comprehend the series of events when you notice three LCD televisions to your right, screening massive crowds of people screaming at you, laughing at you, staring at you. You look around; the dimly lit bizarre portraits of men displaying their poignant skills, seeking your attention… What do you decide? Do all these men deserve that attention?
The artist, Bani Abidi (1971), was born and brought up in Karachi, Pakistan. She now lives and works in both Berlin and Karachi. ‘The Man Who Clapped For 97 Hours’ is Bani’s second solo show at Experimenter. ‘Then it was moulded Anew’ was her first show at Experimenter back in 2013. Her works are showcased internationally.
‘The Man Who Clapped For 97 Hours’ is Bani’s satirical exploration of human eccentricities. The show is a compilation of different semi-fictional characters and is portrayed in her personal style of adding humour to serious political issues, mass psychology and the lengths to which people go to get famous.
An Unforeseen Situation, 2015
‘An Unforeseen Situation’ starts with the portrayal of an event hosted at the Punjab Ministry of Sports in Pakistan in 2014. It was an attempt at breaking India’s record of largest number of people singing the national anthem congregationally. The artist takes her own spin at the series of popular rumours and portrays a youth, who was supposed to be part of that crowd, training himself to break the world record of ‘Breaking 150 walnuts with his forehead in one minute’. Such an event was actually attempted for the Guinness Book of World Records and later got revoked.
The most amount of people standing still, screaming and laughing, 2015
As you walk closer to the videos you notice that it’s the same group of people who are edited in such a manner that they resemble a mass performing the above mentioned actions. This work again satirizes the ability of media to digitally alter images to exaggerate visual records of mass gatherings. These ‘photoshopped crowds’ create make-believe events and strengthen the notion of universality of behaviour. A quick search on Google images for ‘photoshopped crowds’ would result in photographs of various rallies and protests in several parts of the world. But a closer look would reveal the diligent work of an editor and superimposed photographs.
‘And The Man Who…’ after Illya Kabakov’s ‘The man who flew into space from his apartment’
This is a series of 10 watercolour drawings which are her re-imagination of the men who held nonsensical records like “The man who yawned continuously for 5 weeks” or “The man who gave the longest speech of 60 hours and 24 minutes”. The series has a portrait of “The man who went into hiding when they asked him to shave his moustache”. The men in Peshawar carry their moustaches with chauvinistic pride and even spend thousands on its grooming. The Taliban ordered them to shave off their moustaches. The man in the portrait literally went into hiding to save his moustache. His extent of patriotism made it to the Guinness Book of World Records. Finally, the series ends with another portrait titled “The man who gave up”.
Experimenter in Kolkata (2/1, Hindustan Road) will be welcoming curious enthusiasts of the city with open arms till the 27th of February. Do drop in to explore a creative satire by Bani Abidi.
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