beside the point
15 January to 21 February 2015
In his landmark treatise on cinema, Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, Gilles Deleuze explains that movement is a qualitative change mediated through time, not space. Film distills movement into a series of instants—stills, as some might say. The individual frames of Eadweard Muybridge’s 19th century “motion studies” of galloping horses forever brand our view; Deleuze uses dance as his example, describing it as an “order of poses or privileged instants.” But these place any observed subject in specific points in space—neither can describe the qualitative shift of movement between those recorded points. Real movement is wholly fluid, continuous, blurred—not pinned to “any-instant-whatever.”
What then of the shapes that appear between the frames? What then of that blurriness between each fixed image? Or even: what of those forms that the camera chooses not to focus on: beyond the highly mannered poses, beyond the bodies it sees and classifies as normative. Perhaps then, out of fluid, sinuous movement, out of the unfixed, out of the hybrid and the in-between, out of the queer… is exactly where beside the point begins.
Oliver Husain’s drawings emerge out of this non-place. Drawing too fills a kind of in-between state: sketches and doodles are often just the initial drafts towards a finished idea, not quite the grand gesture of painting or sculpture. Husain notes his first forays into drawing started when he was a teenager. At home he copied comic books for his own Xeroxed-comic enterprise; he also assisted his aunt’s research of traditional textile techniques in Andhra Pradesh by copying the patterns for her. Weaving, pattern, and cartoons are not only what he prefers to draw now, but also what he calls his “default language”. Painted in black and emerald ink, Husain’s drawings seem to emerge intuitively from his hand as exquisite corpse-like figures and monstrous queer bodies morph, repeat and pulse over the paper. He describes his images as “soft shapes subjected to cruel structures”: black dumplings split to reveal cool green insides or glistening drops of oil bisecting in midair. Some of these images are divided further by long painted “cuts” that present the objects in multiple states, suggesting a duration of movement. In other drawings a short perforated strip, perhaps some inscrutable word, is recurring motif. In one drawing multiple copies of the strip are joined end to end, forming one long curling ribbon (or film strip) unspooling in the air. And yet in another they reappear as thick slabs laying side-by-side, as if they were sunning at the beach.
This anthropomorphism and simultaneous movement carries over more overtly in a complementary suite of drawings of the Indian dancer and choreographer Deepak Kurki Shivaswami. In a conversation between the two artists, Shivaswami notes that the Indian body comes to contemporary dance in its own way, not from the lineage of classical dance (Bharatanatyam) but rather from the successive influences affecting the body each day: the specific manner of eating, or moving through the chaos of the city. In these images the dancer appears in multiple, side-by-side as imagined duets or stuttering across the paper in a dozen different poses, again bisected by those vertical cuts. Scattered across are small holes revealing a bright lime underneath. Like inverted confetti, these punctures gesture towards a party motif which runs throughout the exhibition in which exquisite corpse-like figures and monstrous queer bodies morph, repeat and pulse over the paper, impelling us to ask—what kind of party is this? And, what is being celebrated?