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Amit Charan in Christchurch

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Amit Charan, Theatre de Poche Revisited, photo by Tim J. Veling. Amit Charan, Theatre de Poche Revisited, photo by Tim J. Veling. Amit Charan, Theatre de Poche Revisited, photo by Tim J. Veling.

By projecting a projection of a projection, he is adding another layer to the process, building a space of critical distance. If his efforts had enacted a perfect restaging of the original exhibition, if he had merely re-screened Froment's film, the work might have been merely about reproduction or appropriation. But this deliberate decision to (re)make the work differently raised a question about the artist's role and intent in this restaging.

Christchurch

 

Amit Charan
Théâtre de Poche revisted

 

14 July - 15 August 2010

You ruined the moment
You said it out loud and now everyone knows
There is no déjà vu.

So reads the exhibition flyer accompanying Theatre de Poche revisited. The design of the flyer, text floating on a white background wasn’t giving much away about the nature of the exhibition. Neither, so it seemed, was The Physics Room website. The web text for the exhibition, which appeared shortly before the opening reproduced another web text for a 2009 Physics Room show (Aurélien Froment’s Théâtre de Poche). Without seeing Froment’s exhibition, my experience was limited to the text and images on The Physics Room website. What would Charan’s revisiting of Théâtre de Poche look like? Would it matter that I hadn’t seen the original?

The exhibition, in the rear gallery, consisted of a single image screened from a data projector. A projection of a projection from the same gallery to be precise. The gallery layout and what was depicted in the projected image were nearly identical apart from a speaker in the corner of the projected room - missing from the physical gallery space. It was then I also noticed that the projection was an inverse, with the gallery’s south wall projected onto its north wall. The image of the projection within the gallery was taken from the documentation of Froment’s earlier exhibition - a still from a screening of a film within the same gallery space. Hence the caveat on the exhibition flyer: those who had seen Froment’s exhibition may find in Charan’s work a strange feeling of familiarity.

By screening the projection on the opposite wall of the gallery, Charan attempts to create a ‘viewing space’ within this act of restaging to think through his process. By projecting a projection of a projection, he is adding another layer to the process, building a space of critical distance. If his efforts had enacted a perfect restaging of the original exhibition, if he had merely re-screened Froment’s film, the work might have been merely about reproduction or appropriation. But this deliberate decision to (re)make the work differently raised a question about the artist’s role and intent in this restaging.

The reproduction theme extended to the other element of the exhibition. Outside the room, a pair of headsets played an audio recording, a narration by Charan. The brief script is read from the perspective of a ‘prompt’, a crucial, yet hidden role in script-based theatrical performances. The artist’s interest in the role of the ‘prompt’ could perhaps also be connected with a desire to play on words, via repeated phrases, and one voice speaking for different roles. It wasn’t immediately clear if or how this related to Théâtre de Poche, or if it was intended as a prompt to the other work.

Charan has a history of exhibiting thoughtful, rather minimalist works, often dealing with invisible phenomena, or with subtle references to other artists (e.g.: Joseph Kosuth, Santiago Sierra and Bruce Nauman. The subtlety and minimalism of these often belie the conceptual activity at work and our position within this. By restaging an exhibition within the space that it was originally exhibited, Charan elicited a sense of déjà vu from The Physics Room’s audience. But there is more at play here. By reproducing another artist’s exhibition in the same space that it was originally exhibited, Charan creates a loop in the history of the gallery, by bringing the gallery’s past into the gallery’s present. This is not an identical reproduction and there is a difference emerging through this repetition. By opening up a reflective space within this process, he is subtly drawing our attention to the space he as an artist, and we as an audience occupy within this apparent facsimile of another exhibition - a space from which the artist’s presence is divested.

This is the real work of the exhibition, so subtle as to risk being missed by many viewers caught up in the quick fix of déjà vu. I missed the ‘moment’. This led me to further question what was on display and proved to be more rewarding.

Andrea Bell

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