Shrine Empire Gallery is pleased to present a solo exhibition by New York-based artist Gautam Kansara.
Don’t Hurry, Don’t Worry features a selection of video, photo, and sound-based works that utilize candid recordings of Kansara’s family to address memory and ageing, familial hierarchies, emotional availability, and cultural displacement.
The works are anchored by recordings of Kansara and his family in spontaneous conversation; which, through tight editing, reveal shifting dynamics of influence and support.
Central to the exhibition is the photo/sound installation Dahl, Baht, Roti, Shak, which draws upon the video documentation of over 20 family meals, filmed within Kansara’s grandparent’s flat in London during the last five years of their lives. Using a combination of long-exposure and motion photography digital prints were derived from the projections of those family meals. Each meal has been compressed into its own singular image and together they turn our attention to the dining room itself, in a way that evokes a stage set, a microcosm of the wider world, containing the remnants of domestic dramas and private traumas. The sound component strings together a time-warping narrative, composed of digitally collaged audio segments which have been extracted from the original conversations from around the dining table.
Also included are two works from Health, Wealth, Name, and Fame, a wide-ranging project that includes multi-channel video, sound installation, photography, as well as an edition of books with sound. The works consider the void left within Kansara’s family in the wake of his grandparent’s death in 2008, the family’s subsequent pilgrimage to India to scatter their ashes, and the transformation of their flat in London to mostly vacant rooms, devoid of the bits and pieces of their lives.
In Health, Wealth, Name, and Fame (Rangpur) Kansara pieces together his journey to Rangpur, the remote village in India where his grandfather was born. A year after his death, Kansara finds himself a guest in the village meeting distant relatives for the first time. The soundtrack accompanying the piece is made up of an amalgamation of conversations, recorded over the past 6 years and digitally pieced together, where Kansara’s grandfather is remembering his village and dreaming of going back there. My grandfather recounts details of growing up as the youngest of nine children in a family of straitened circumstances, going to boarding school in Bombay, and having the chance to start his professional career in London. Orchestrating the conversations by prompting my grandfather to reminisce with a trove of old photographs, the final soundtrack untangles his recollections and assembles a previously lost history.
Sharmistha Ray, artist, curator, and director of Bodhi Art Mumbai, states that “like a storyteller, Kansara remains keenly attuned to the cultural particularities of person, place and situation thereby weaving a powerful narrative about migration, charged with the subtext of separation.” New York-based artist and critic Stephen Maine writes that “in I’m Leaving, Kansara reminds his grandparents over dinner that he is “leaving tomorrow,” a phrase that his grandfather emphatically repeats as the meal progresses, as if to ease his shock and bafflement. He offers to take Kansara to the airport—an obviously extraneous but loving gesture designed to prolong contact, and to return a modicum of the attention he has received during his grandson’s visit.” Maine goes on to say that Kansara’s family appears “to be oblivious to (or unimpressed by) the unobtrusive video equipment he uses, and that feeds the central conflict enlivening this work, namely the imbalance in the participants’ conception of what is going on. Insofar as “performance” implies awareness of an audience (or its proxy, the camera), Kansara’s grandparents are not acting, but he is.”
Central to this body of work is the long-term nature of Kansara’s practice. For the past 6 years he has been filming his family interacting, and analyzing and contemplating the complexities of the changing relationship as he makes new work. In doing so he has amassed an archive of footage to draw upon, almost all of which has been filmed within his grandparent’s flat in London.
In Kansara’s most recent work, the single-channel video Don’t Hurry, Don’t Worry, he utilizes that archive of familial interactions, projecting old footage back onto the original spaces where they were recorded in the flat, creating a portal or a window into the past. Re-filming these projections in the kitchen, living room, dining room , and bedroom the work evokes how inseparable we become from the spaces we inhabit, which through a lifetime lived function as an extension of our bodies and ourselves.