Queens Museum of Art, New York
Logan Center for the Arts, Chicago
In this new body of work Sreshta Rit Premnath continues his exploration of the contradictory relationship between bodily occupation and property ownership–a topic that he has explored in the solo exhibitions “The Last Image,” Tony Wight Gallery, Chicago (2012); “Plot,” Gallery SKE, Bangalore (2013) and “Plot,” The Bindery Project, St. Paul (2014).
In Fall/Sleep, the artist uses the image of a sleeping Indian migrant laborer to considers the limits of ownership. The migrant laborer owns no property and exercises his only remaining resource – his labor power – to eke out an existence. But he surrenders even that when he sleeps.
In Projections (1964/2014) Premnath responds to the 50 year span marked out by the curator (1947 to 97) by shifting to a different span of 50 years (1964 to 14). This span of time is bookended by two photographs: The first is the Pavilion of India at the 1964 New York Worlds Fair in Flushing Meadows, and the second is an advertising billboard from 2014 of a residential complex in Bangalore that boasts “New York Living in Bangalore.” The title of the piece refers to a statement made by Robert Moses to Indira Gandhi during the 1964 Worlds Fair: “In projecting the image of India, you will find that Flushing Meadows is a better medium than Hollywood.” While the India Pavilion at the Worlds fair was a government sanctioned “projection” that identified India as historically and culturally distinct from the west, the contemporary property developer taps into a contradictory preoccupation – that of wealthy urban dwellers in India desirous of a property that appears American. These contradictory forces of nationalism and globalism are at the heart of present day Indian politics.
Each of the three sculptures titled Slump, consists of a sheet of sand, 2 feet wide and six feet long, draped onto an aluminum frame. A yellow measuring tape winds its way on the surface of each form. These objects refer to the human body in a much more abstract manner. The Imperial Rule that functions as an arbitrary law by which the physical world is measured, itself bears the trace of bodily units: the inch is a thumb, the foot is the length of a foot. These slumped forms function as both plots of land and as prone figures, while the circuitous loops of the measuring tape fail to accurately measure each site.