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On Belonging and the Void Between
Curated by Asha Ganpat
Gallery Aferro, Main Gallery
July 8th – August 31st, 2017
Opening Reception July 8th, 7-10pm
This exhibition is a selection of works about the nature of belonging and a look to the vacuous and vulnerable experience of being out of place. Without a sense of belonging, we are adrift in a sea of otherness. Of the ways we may untether from familiarity, the shift in becoming an outsider can shake the foundation of our very sense of self.
Sometimes is it desire that draws us out of what we know and into the unknown. “The Kissing Wall” by Ronit Levin Delgado Rochas, is an act of adoration. In this piece, it is the dream that she attempts to kiss awake and bring to life, each kiss a prayerful wish, and in her performance as a stand-in for us all, Rochas renders sensual the connection between self and home. Belonging may not always be what we desire most. Mahtab Pedrami’s wall installation “From Guinea to New Guinea” is made of unfired terracotta vessels with blue silk birds. The vessels house the birds, and in repetition, represent a section of microcosm exposing the temporal and powerless schemes of living existence. Pedrami entraps the birds through the vessels’ immobility, limiting the flight and life of the winged creatures.
Sky Kim’s polymer clay sculptures draw attention to the body through disjointed and dysmorphic forms, seemingly tender and alive with life. The red tint in Kim’s delicate objects read as soreness and invoke a sense of the wrongness when a body is swollen and attempting to reject something that does not feel right. Her sculptures draw our attention to our own bodies and show us forms where our bodies could no longer feel like our own.
In domesticity, there are rigid stereotypes, demanding and inflexible. What victims are women in this inculcated role? How many live lives of pretense, going through the motions to fulfill expectations? In “Diamonds and Pearls” by Donna Conklin King, the symbols of a lasting marriage are turned gesture of suffering, as broken glass and fake pearls fill the cups of a pair of plush velvet-lined knee pads. King represents the burden of wifely duties again in, “You Made Your Bed, Now Sleep in It”, a bare box spring coil bed stuffed with lint flowers and a draped by a thin fabric. The flowers become precious in their placement, although in truth a collection of the ick and iota removed from the dirty clothes and fabrics of the home. Alternately, in embrace of the traditional responsibilities of wife and mother, “Domestic Majesty” and “Domestic Party” by Suzie Tuchman are two free-standing dresses, a cocktail dress and an elongated gown. They are two of the costumes of womanhood made from steel wool, a symbol for cleaning, one of the main roles often a task performed by women in marriage.
Farideh Sakhaeifar tells stories of belonging through photographs of material objects. Her series “Closets” and “Pending” depict opposing circumstances. In “Closets,” the portraits are not of people themselves, but of their things, organized and stored, visible in compositions with closet doors agape and all-exposed. These are the closets of people who dwell in those houses, with roots laid and a home made. In a disturbing acknowledgement of the loss of belonging, Sakhaeifar’s eerie series “Pending” gives us appropriated images of Syrian refugees capturing the heartrending trudge and trek of escape. However, Sakhaeifar has digitally removed all of the refugees, erasing them entirely, leaving the viewer only barren landscapes and trails of hovering personal items, the only things left in their possession from what was once a full life full of things.
When feeling out of place, there is often heightened vigilance for safety. Gwen Charles’ installation and performance titled “Safety Kiosk” provides viewers with a chance to borrow a safety vest to protect against unforeseen disaster. Her piece humorously takes on the challenge to help viewers be proactive in safety while in the gallery. Charles also presents two videos. In “Exhaustion Storage” a woman is sealed and trapped in Tupperware, lying alone in a shallow opening. A claustrophobia grows as minutes pass while the figure extends her limbs to the ends of the limited space. There is futility in the entrapment, a stifling of being where one should not be. In the video titled “Venetian Blinds,” we are faced with a representation of the other. We see a woman without expression raising and lowering white blinds, placing and removing a barrier between us. She just watches and stares, alienating the viewer with the lack of connection. The blinds become the line dividing us and them, inside and out, the viewer forced to the outside.
From the series Bombay vs. New York, two pairs of photographs by Nisha Sondhe present comparisons of everyday life. We see women beating laundry against rocks alongside a lines of machines in a laundromat with an idle patron. Also are pair of the inside of train cars, a nyc subway and one from India. A mere matter of a change of location or viewer and each pair are interchangeable in the polarity of the known and unknown.
Three shaman figures referencing the Selknam tribe of Argentina, loiter the walls in obscurity. Made by Elisa Pritzker, the canvas figures are the memory of a people who no longer have a place to belong as their tribe is now extinct. The viewer may see her future self mirrored in the shaman, for our mortality demands that we cannot always belong here.
Cover image by Donna Conklin King