Sunday, November 13, 2011

Shahzia Sikander & Du Yun at Sikkema Jenkins

Shahzia Sikander's current show at Sikkema, Jenkins (in NYC's Chelsea) includes a 10-minute animated video projected on a large wall, entitled Last Post, with accompanying music by Du Yun.

The animation is kaleidoscopic, constantly changing, with forms collapsing and fragmenting, colors shifting, ghostly calligraphy floating in the background. The main character is an English East India Company officer, at first stolidly implanted within the world of a Mughal miniature painting, then balancing precariously and ultimately dissolving. Jewel-like shapes detach themselves, become floating corpuscles--to our eye the opium derived from the poppy and shipped from India to China in the 19th century.

The music is perfectly suited to the images; one is lured into the viewing room-- which is separate from the large, open main gallery-- by the deep, melancholy themes. Together, moving images & flowing music, tell a story of transcultural exchange, of disparities in power and unbalanced power, of decay and renewal.

Above all, Sikander (trained at the National College of Arts, Lahore before moving to RISD, and living now in NYC) and Yun (trained at the Shanghai Conservatory before moving to Oberlin and Harvard, and living now in NYC) are superb at re-contextualizing traditional forms and at mixing different genres without resorting to pastiche or the lowest common denominator. In this, they remind Lobster & Canary of Yinka Shonibare and of Kehinde Wiley, artists who are in the vanguard of our emerging globalized world, knitting us together while retaining the granular, organic individuality of each of us and the authenticity of our constituent local cultures.

As Sikander puts it in an artist statement on the Sikkema, Jenkins site:

"I find the terminology and the referencing of work in terms of an east and west paradigm, simplistic and dated. It robs the work of all nuances in meaning. In fact these days the world is small and one should really consider work in terms of some sort of global context of ideas. Work I believe should stand on its own, irrespective of geography."

For more Sikander, click here and click here (a filmed conversation between Sikander and MoMA director Glenn Lowry).

For more Du Yun, click here (scroll far down on the right-hand side to check out her list of influences!).

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