10 September 2004 to 15 October 2004
198 Contemporary Arts & Learning
This was the first UK solo exhibition by Indian-born visual artist Shelly Bahl, who divides her time between Toronto, Canada and New York City.
Her mixed media video installation, Pink is the Navy Blue of India (2003), is set in a boutique environment amongst rails of clothes. The video in this satirical comment on Bollywood chic shows a woman in a trendy boutique, trying on the Indian-inspired fashions in a mad spree of 'ethnic consumption'. By placing themselves within the installation, and interacting with the clothing on display, the viewer participates in 'a narrative of cultural cannibalism'. In her earlier installation work Take-Away I and Take-Away II (2000 and 2001), Bahl invited the visitor's involvement by leaving napkins printed with South Asian motifs to be taken away.
"I have been exploring the history and exotification of Indian art and culture, and much of my work plays with and questions the practices of Orientalism, kitsch appropriation and the mass-production of culturally-specific iconography." (Shelly Bahl)
By recontextualising recognisable symbols of Asian culture, drawing on both historical and contemporary imagery, she mimics the current appropriation of 'exotic' cultures, at the same time questioning the authenticity of the resulting products. Bahl is also interested in the exploration of transcultural experiences that occur where cultures meet and mix.