Reena Saini Kallat’s Blind Spots Explores Commonalities Amidst Differences Beyond Borders

Blind Spots will be on display from November 30 – December 28, 2019 at the Chemould Prescott Road Gallery, Mumbai, India.

Reena Kallat with Blind Spots

Internationally acclaimed Mumbai-based artist Reena Saini Kallat titled Blind Spots is being presented as a solo exhibition by Chemould Prescott Road. Following her solo exhibition at the Manchester Museum, and a flurry of exhibitions internationally at venues as varied as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Art Gallery of New South Wales, and Havana Biennale, this is Reena’s solo exhibition in Mumbai after a gap of four years. Currently her work is being exhibited at the ICA Boston, Museu Oscar Niemeyer.

“Through much of my work over the last decade and a half I've explored the border, the territory and the map thinking of how these man-made incisions on the ground decide the fate of citizens on either side of the border and the implications to their lives. While borders are a political construct I've primarily been interested in the psychological, social barriers between people more than the physical borders themselves.

I think through Blind Spots I'm exploring the space of the missing fragment/omission of data/no cognition where we seem to have lost sight of some of our core values and aspirations common to both sides. Through the works in the exhibition my attempt is for us to seek the many commonalities amidst difference or the many bonds beyond the borders.”

- Reena Saini Kallat, Visual Artist

Reena Saini Kallat, Leaking Lines, 2019

In Reena Kallat’s works over the last several years the border, the territory and the map have recurred as potent forms that point to broad historical narratives as well as the manner in which human kind have left the imprint of history on geography. In the recent suite of six drawings titled Leaking Lines, Reena intentionally conflates the ‘line’, a primary artistic device with epic territorial delineations; here tense international borders and fortifications during wars appear like charred fissures on the surface of the paper. Conceived as diptychs, one part rendered in charcoal reveals the factual landscape, while the other forming a flayed fence using electric wires form rich cartographic abstractions that invoke undulating terrain.

Reena Saini Kallat, Chorus, 2019

Chorus is modeled on pre-radar acoustic devices used to track sounds of enemy aircrafts during the Second World War. Reena, in an act of subverting notions of war, introduces bird calls from border-sharing countries either politically partitioned or in conflict such as the Hoopoe bird (national bird of Israel) singing to the Palestinian Sunbird (national bird of Palestine), the Peacock (from India) communicating with the Doyel (from Bangladesh), the Crested Caracara (national bird from Mexico) singing in unison with the Eagle (national bird of US)... Though appropriated as national symbols by one or the other nation, these bird species inhabit both, being citizens only of a particular terrain and climate that no country can claim ownership to.

Also part of the exhibition is a large work on paper titled Cleft (2017) where hybrid animals and birds come together to form a complex world of conjoined species making a determined and desperate effort to reset a divided planet apportioned by humankind. Inviting viewers to think of the many bonds and borders that make our complex existence.

Reena Saini Kallat, Teesta River, 2019

Some of these ideas take a different form in Shifting Ecotone-2 wherein landscapes (with rivers at the heart of contestation between countries or the seas from contested border lands) become unstable, beginning to shuffle and scatter as if part of a child’s puzzle board. The title alludes to the transitional space between biomes where biodiversity proliferates or wherein two communities might meet and integrate.

Reena Saini Kallat, Blind Spots, 2019

In Blind Spots, Reena Kallat deploys the preambles of the constitutions of seven pairs of warring nations from around the world as Snellen eye charts used by optometrists to measure vision. As the founding promises of hostile nation-states are revealed in the form of pyramids with disjointed letters, words common to both constitutions in each pair morph into Braille-like dots. The dots lack the haptic element that makes Braille legible, thus rendering the words inaccessible both to the sighted and the blind. The parts thus obscured express universal values such as freedom, democracy, justice, and equality, shared by the constitutions of most modern nation states. The artist alludes to the metaphor of having lost sight of these shared values and common aspirations by posing a ‘test of vision’ that invites audiences to reflect back on promises that have slipped from collective memory amidst years of political rhetoric and myopic competition between states.