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Magical mystery tour

Magical mystery tour
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First Published: Wed, Jan 20 2010. 10 55 PM IST

Dream Villa 40, 2007,2008. C-print 18” x 18” (46x46 sq cms)
Dream Villa 40, 2007,2008. C-print 18” x 18” (46x46 sq cms)
Updated: Wed, Jan 20 2010. 10 55 PM IST
Dream Villa, the exhibition of colour photographs by Dayanita Singh, is premised on a simple and fundamental concept—things look different at night. As adults—more so perhaps as urban-dwelling adults—we are only occasionally conscious of the transformative effect of darkness and moonlight on our surroundings. Equally pronounced is its effect on us—as the sun goes down, our mood changes, and so, often, does our attitude and outlook.
Dream Villa 40, 2007,2008. C-print 18” x 18” (46x46 sq cms)
It is left to artists then to try and make adults see things from the eyes of a child—often by evoking the lost sense of magic and wonder in the familiar and the ordinary. Singh’s photographs go a long way in achieving just that—the show’s title and the night-time shots of buildings, houses, vegetation and people are a not-too-subtle invitation to suspend disbelief and leave the everyday world behind us. We are urged to dream and for the most part we are happy to oblige—the traditional moonlit landscapes here have mostly been substituted by artificial lighting though the resulting effect can be akin to that of moonlight washed scenery.
More so than her last show of industrial landscapes and machinery, Singh is pushing the envelope with this series, almost daring us to go along with her. For one, there is the prominence of the man-made element in the photos—different kinds of bulbs and other light sources; glowing rooms, houses, buildings and streets; and even natural vegetation that is artificially lit. By pushing the human element into the foreground and then observing its play with nature—trees, plants, sky—which forms a kind of omnipresent backdrop, Singh is presenting a slightly complex vision of the other-worldly. This—naturally enough—is not a flat, fairy tale-book picture of a dreamy, magical place; some photos are sci-fi and fantasy in equal measure, quite removed from a meditative dreamy idyll.
The ghostly, ethereally lit, objects and people against an iridescent backdrop of blue, red or inky black are in harmony, as well as in opposition to each other. The resulting dissonance usually works in the photos’ favour—though it can take a little effort on the viewer’s part to step into Singh’s magic world.
Dream Villa will be showing at the Nature Morte gallery in New Delhi until 13 February. Click here for details
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First Published: Wed, Jan 20 2010. 10 55 PM IST