Dayanita Singh’s accordion-fold book-exhibition on the chairs of “tropical modernist” Geoffrey Bawa
I wanted to suggest a conversation among these chairs, which have always seemed to me more like people than objects, with distinct personalities and genders even." With this sentiment in mind, Dayanita Singh (born 1961) went about photographing the many chairs living throughout the houses and public buildings designed by Geoffrey Bawa, whom Singh deems a "tropical modernist" and the most influential architect of the South Asian region.
Less still lifes than portraits, Singh's images show how Bawa's spaces engage with the chairs, be they designed or collected by Bawa, or installed after his passing. Made to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of Bawa's birth, Bawa Chairs is constructed as an accordion-fold booklet in the manner of Singh's Chairs (2005), Sent a Letter (2007) and Museum Bhavan (2017), and intended to be unfolded and installed at will—transforming the book into an exhibition, and the reader into a curator.
The book is well known as Dayanita Singh’s (born 1961) primary medium, one she explores to create new relationships between photography, publishing, the exhibition and the museum. But where did her passion for the book as the ideal vessel for her photos, for the stories she tells, begin? The answer lies in Zakir Hussain, a handmade maquette Singh crafted in 1986 as her first project as a graphic design student. The protagonist of Singh’s photo essay is the Indian classical tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, whom she captured on the stage and at home with his family. Surrounding the photos are handwritten texts gleaned from interviews Singh made with her sitters, including insights from Hussain himself. This Steidl facsimile edition is scanned from Singh’s original maquette and reproduces all its “imperfections” and idiosyncrasies, including her pencilled notes about the book’s construction—indications of the influential book-maker to come. Shanay Jhaveri’s accompanying essay discusses how Singh intuitively assembled the book.
Published by Steidl. Interviews by Aveen Sen, Gerhard Steidl.
With Museum Bhavan, Dayanita Singh (born 1961) forges a new space between publishing and the museum, an experience where books have the same--if not greater--artistic value as prints hanging on a gallery wall. Consisting of 10 individual “museums” in book form, Museum Bhavan is a miniature version of Singh’s eponymous traveling exhibition, with prints placed in folding expanding wooden structures. The images in Museum Bhavan have been intuitively grouped into lyrical chapters in a visual story such as “Little Ladies Museum” and “Ongoing Museum,” as well as more specific series such as “Museum of Machines.” As in Singh’s first project, Sent a Letter (2008), the books are housed in a handmade box and fold out into accordion-like strips which the artist encourages viewers to install and curate as they wish in their own homes. The exhibition thus becomes a book, and the book an exhibition.
Dayanita Singh's Museum of Chance is a book about how life unfolds, and asks to be recorded and edited, along and off the axis of time. The inscrutably woven photographic sequence of Singh's Go Away Closer has now grown into a labyrinth of connections and correspondences. The thread through this novel-like web of happenings is that elusive entity called Chance. It is Chance that seems to disperse as well as gather fragments or clusters of experience, creating a form of simultaneity that is realized in the idea and matter of the book, with its interlaced or parallel timelines and patterns of recurrence and return. The 88 quadratone images in the book will also appear on the front and back covers in random pairs, transforming each copy of the book into a distinct piece of work by the author.
Published by Hayward Gallery Publishing. Foreword by Ralph Rugoff. Text by Geoff Dyer. Interview by Stephanie Rosenthal.
Originally trained as a photojournalist and bookmaker, Dayanita Singh (born 1961) has exhibited widely both in India and abroad. Her work often takes a curious view of the everyday, and is characterized by an unsparing view of her subject matter. Best known for her portraits of India’s urban middle and upper classes, her images of people working, celebrating or resting depict everyday life without embellishment, capturing insights that often challenge exotic stereotypes in the West. Published alongside an exhibition at Hayward Gallery, Dayanita Singh: Go Away Closer<\!s>marks a turning point in the career of this artist. For the first time in print, this publication presents a detailed overview of Singh’s Museums--wooden structures that introduce a radical new way of experiencing Singh’s work and photography in general. The book includes images from throughout Singh’s career, a new essay from Geoff Dyer and an in-depth interview with Singh by Hayward Chief Curator, Stephanie Rosenthal.
Dayanita Singh's photos of archives and their custodians across India examine how memory is made and how history is narrated. These images bring to light the paradox of archives: they are impersonal in their classifications, yet each is the careful handiwork of an individual archivist, an unsung keeper of history whose decisions generate the sources of much of our knowledge. Archives are vessels of orthodox fact but can also be the home of neglected details and forgotten documents than can unfix the status quo. As the pace of change in contemporary India accelerates and Indians turn from the past and fix their gaze on the future, what will become of the archive? Singh prompts us to imagine archives as not merely documents of dusty scholarship but as monuments of knowledge, beautiful in their unkempt order.
Dayanita Singh’s House of Love is a work of photographic fiction that takes the form of 13 short stories. The “House of Love” itself is the Taj Mahal, but the Taj Mahal as a recurring motif that stands for a range of meanings--meanings made up of the truths and lies of night and day, love and illusion, attachment and detachment, humor and treachery, friendship and desolation. Through images of cities both visible and invisible, people real and surreal, Singh creates her own mysterious and ineffable, strange yet familiar language, using her trademark black-and-white photography and her newer investigations of nocturnal color. Working closely with writer Aveek Sen, whose prose pursues its own parallel journey, Singh explores the relationship between photography and writing. House of Love is a book whose images demand to be read, not just seen, and whose texts likewise create their own sensory worlds.
Known for her photographs of lesser-known elements of Indian society, artist Dayanita Singh makes images that might depict anything from the life of a Delhi eunuch to those of upper-middle-class families. Her books, often published without text, allow her to experiment with different styles of sequencing and composing such photographs. In Dream Villa, Singh explores the ways in which the night transforms what seems ordinary by day into something disquieting and enigmatic; the series of color photographs illustrated in this book presents a landscape that exists as much in the artist's imagination as it does in the real world. In search of these mysterious nocturnal effects, Singh travels to many cities across India, never knowing where her “Dream Villa” or its shadowy inhabitants will present themselves.