With more than seven hundred photographs, the internationally renowned photographer Dayanita Singh is providing in-depth insights into the past thirty years of her artistic work.
Her exhibition “Go Away Closer” is a museum in a museum: in installations she calls “museum structures”, Singh arranges her photographs and presents them in structures she had developed as her form. These archives structures stand in the exhibition like open oversize books. Each of the expansive, multiply convertible wooden structures holds between 70 and 140 black-and-white photographs – series of works edited and arranged in sequences by the artist, but theoretically capable of being rearranged and supplemented in any number of ways. The photos unite to form fictional narratives full of allusions and enigmas. The artist has given the various structures such titles as “Museum of Little Ladies”, “Museum of Embraces”, “Museum of Machines” or “Museum of Chance”. She quite deliberately chooses not to label or date the individual photographs.
Dayanita Singh, who refers to herself as a “book artist”, made a name for herself above all with her carefully designed artist’s books, which she has always thought of as portable museums. The “museum structures” have their origins in these books. This special exhibition form lends the images a quality of seemingly never-ending process. With the ‘museum structures’, Singh moreover broadens our conception of photography and how to approach it by introducing sculptural and architectonic aspects.
Singh’s photographs, which she processes with superb craftsmanship and great technical precision, are characterized by a balance between empathy and distance. In her pictures, with their underlying melancholy mood, she finds simple translations for complex states of mind. In the photographic essays, countless images of her past merge with perceptions of the present, as in a dreamlike state. European music, literature and movie history are as much a part of the artist’s work as the people, structures and places of her surroundings in New Delhi.
The exhibition is further enhanced by Singh’s latest video work, Mona and Myself, which she produced for the German pavilion at the 2013 Venice Biennale. Singh describes the striking video portrait as her first “moving still”. “This film demonstrates the true concern of my work: it’s like a dream, like the brief moment between sleeping and waking”, the artist explains.
Singh first met the film’s protagonist, the eunuch Mona Ahmed, in 1989; since that time the two have been close friends. Talking about the work, the artist says: “Mona tells what it’s like when you belong neither here nor there, are neither male nor female, neither an eunuch nor someone like me.”
On the occasion of the exhibition at the MMK 3, Dayanita Singh created a new artist’s book entitled Museum of Chance, published by Steidl Verlag, Göttingen. The 88 photographs featured on the inside of the clothbound book also each appear as front and back cover illustrations, so that there are 88 different versions of the publication. The book Museum of Chance is in English, costs 48 EUR and is available at the MMK shop.
The exhibition was organized in cooperation with the Hayward Gallery in London.