Monday, 30 January 2012

on photography as poetry ; inspired by Zarina Bhimji

exhibition catalogue

My other half  and I finally made it to the Whitechapel Gallery this weekend to see Zarina Bhimji's work, including the new video installation "Yellow Patch" (2011) inspired by trade and migration across the Indian Ocean.

This 30 minute installation is exquisitely made; slow, contemplative and with a haunting soundtrack of the sounds of people and their activities that are long gone from the deserted buildings and offices that the film portrays. A shipyard with unfinished boats, a defaced statue of Queen Victoria , deserted colonial  offices in Mumbai, crumbling Haveli palace interiors. The subject matter is a photographer's paradise, but seeing the images as a film transports the viewer into the landscape; watching the wind blow cobwebs and papers slowly back and forth adds a poignancy that the photographs displayed on the gallery walls that accompany the installation cannot convey. The passage of time is slow and allows for a sumptuous feast for the eye.

Her use of very slow panning in, or out, of a subject forces the viewer to really see, to think and to enjoy the colours and sounds that the conveys. It feels as though one is watching a series of individual images, with time to savour them due to the slow pace.

My only criticism is the lack of information about the installation; it is not clear how the places that she includes connect with each other, or why she has chosen particular venues such as  a stark landscape of dried soil and apparently dead shrubs. One would have to buy the catalogue to get a real understanding of her thinking.

Upstairs other works by Zarina are both beautiful and disturbing; malarial mosquitos sit alongside architectural fragments and lightbox presentations that give new depth to simple studies of faded plaster walls or a pomegranate tree in a garden. They are beautiful to look at, but lack explanations that give real meaning to the viewer. The juxtaposition of still photographs and the video installation give cause for contemplation on the merits of the single, static image over video; in this case, video wins hands down.

There is a Flickr group currently offering a competition for photographs inspired by her work.

offering © caroline fraser 2012

It seems to me that her work is about fragments or representations of a life that has now moved on. It is about seeing something in what remains; a contemplation of what has been rather than what is.

It fits well with my series on litter, but in a more poetic and beautiful way of seeing.

fragments © caroline fraser 2012

 Other half, dog and I went for a walk this weekend. Zarina's work was on my mind, and consequently I took the picture seen above.

 Where previously I have photographed lambs in this barn; today I photographed the evidence of their passing. 

 I had hoped that I wouldn't see too many cigarette packets out in the weald of Kent, but there were plenty beside the road and deep in the woods. 

..........there appears to be a better class of smoker in the countryside; here's a detail from a cigar tin found in the verge. Beware of  smoking.......... who knows what effect it might have on your offspring...............  female cigar smokers have no need for concern.

"smoking can damage your sperm" says the warning on the tin..........

enough said.

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