Black Box reviewed in Deccan Herald

Jan 28, 2008 – Marta Jakimowicz

Collapse of Certainty

Galleryske, continuing its focus on bold, young art, presents Bangalore-born Sreshta Premnath who lives in New York. His exhibition, the “Black Box” (January 7 to February 15) from evidence of air crash becomes a metaphor of the current collapse of clarity in a globalising world. Human and object movements spontaneously change and muddle perception, positions and values, while deliberate manipulation of the same comes from economical powers and advertising imagery aided by technology.

Against such phenomena the artist enquires into the need to view things with understanding, to find identity within limitations and sheer impossibilities. Against the background of altering power equations he uncovers paths of forced ownership situations. One can admire Sreshta’s serious engagement, knowledge and manifold sources, acknowledging that the complexity of the issues he deals with justify, even require perhaps, a conceptual approach. The artist wishes to flesh it out through visuality, which sometimes is successful but sometimes does not hold together. When it does, it creates a strong, striking impact which reveals much of the content with immediacy. This happens with “Contraband” – large aluminium trunks filled with soil in which tropical plants grow under powerful artificial illumination that in a cold climate makes up for original sunshine. Leafing through the accompanying documentation about colonial-time acclimatisation of European plants in India and about American corporations appropriating ageless ethnic resources in the name of gene patents, one can realise that Sreshta brings to our eyes the current robbing of ownership rights. The “Freedom of the Seas” digital prints made from photographic Internet sources refer to the artificial, self-sufficient world of pleasure conjured for the well off on a cruiser. Its experience includes ready-made sampling of ethnicities but ends in sinking.

This, in a series of banners with scribbled quotations and an image of a figure packed for voyage, is juxtaposed with the natural reality of individual travelling for authentic experience and with the harshness of illegal migrations from poor countries. To read the work correctly and feel it then one needs to know the artist’s explanation beforehand. In “Phantom Moon”, too, one has to learn first that the video projection with moving dots belongs to the photograph of the earth taken from the moon in the ’60s. Its lack of clarity links with the fact that the moon formed once of fragments of the earth. Sreshta here plays on the elusiveness of seeing the whole and understanding it from its fragment, as he confronts the dots with the image of an immense whale, whilst the sound-track combines the story of a man who wanted to amputate his leg, an astronaut’s memories, etc. Only having learned the references and having stayed with the installation long enough to realise the deceptiveness of the photographic surety that we are made to believe, its effect grows on the spectator, indeed, reasserting one’s desire to see and understand things along with its doomed prospects.