Bharti Kher, Inevitable Undeniable Necessary at Hauser and Wirth, 20 March – 15 May

In her earlier work English born artist Bahrti Kher has shown an interest in the combining the human body with animal body parts to myth like creatures. The merge of nature and human body together with symbols taken from the Indian culture has served as a repetitious mantra throughout her production. For this new body of work Kher’s identity and Indian legacy is still mirrored in the work, however developed into new directions, leaving the representation of the body instead engaging with symbols and the material. Still often using the found object, Kher focuses more on the transformation of the object in itself, rather then to turn it into an amputee inserted into an alien body. The old medical charts describing childbirth and the different possible defects of the foetus, Contents (2010), are covered with floating steams of sperm-like bindis, creating an uncomfortable connection between the traditional Indian symbol, fertility and the delicate drawings of the risks of the same.

The bindi is constantly returning in Khers work, as a sperm it becomes a masculine symbol, whereas the round dots refer to femininity. Covering the surfaces of the different objects in the exhibition, they allow the material dimensions of the work to become more visible simultaneously as adding a symbolic dimension. The mirrors installed on the upper floor, Indira’s Net Nirror 1-16 (2010), have lost their initial function and become pallets of the artist, cracked and covered with colourful bindis. Even though powerful, they seem rather confused, as the artist has fused to many symbols and meanings into the same work. The mirror in itself offers a direct dialogue with the viewer. Cracked up, the dialogue becomes even more frantic and complex (as in the work of for example Michelangelo Pistoletti). However, adding even more layers in the shape of differently shaped bindis in colourful patterns, a dubious title and a distinctive frame referring to past times, makes the work too self absorbed and leaves out the immediate encounter with the viewer. Throughout the exhibition the symbolic references are as many as they are evident and this makes it hard to navigate between the work, even though beautifully installed. Some of the objects seem closer connected while other exist independently. In the basement the silent and perhaps most striking work in the exhibition In the Presence of Nothing (2009-2010), is installed right next to what seem to be an old massive safe. On a simple white podium is a shiny brass bowl, with its outside surface still not polished. A mechanical polishing device stretches from the roof, rotating around the bowl. Leaving out the organic body, the polishing machine still produces a human ritual as it slowly moves around the bowl. Without ability to change course, to detect flaws and correct them, the machine moves in endless circles slowly turning from usefulness to uselessness. Not having to share the space with other objects in the show In the Presence of Nothing creates its own universe, attracting the viewer at the same time as pointing out its independence of human interaction.

– Katrin Ingelstedt

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