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NEW DELHI :

Delhi now has a museum within a museum—or, rather, nine smaller mobile photo-museums. These can grow in number anytime, subject to conversations and inspiration that may strike photo-artist and curator-in-residence Dayanita Singh. For this is her latest show, titled Conversation Chambers— Museum Bhavan, at the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA).

Enter the bhavan, and you could be in Singh’s office. Or the reception. Or the museum shop. “It depends on what the mood is—yours and mine," says Singh. The fluidity of her museum space is clear from the word go. The only constant presence here is of spacious wooden chambers. Each chamber-installation is a “museum", with black and white images from collections of the artist’s work.

The first installation is the Museum Of Little Ladies, with pictures from as far back as the 1960s, including portraits of the artist as a young girl. The chamber looks a little incomplete from one side—but when asked, Singh opens it out like a book and squeezes us into a narrow space that throws open its “sibling" picture-display—the Museum Of Files. “Going to an art exhibition can be a passive experience. But I will keep pulling you into my maze," she says. The chambers have space for more images—she changes them frequently.

What’s more, the structures store minimalist, pull-out wooden benches that can create impromptu conversation spaces, a concept that Singh misses in mainstream galleries.

This is the first time the exhibit, which has travelled to London, Frankfurt and Chicago, is showing in India. It was conceived years ago, when Singh was working on Sent A Letter—her box-set of seven small photo-books that open out like an accordion into several miniature exhibitions. It was published in 2008.

Since installing Museum Bhavan, Singh has realized that changing the name of a museum can change your entire reading of it, so she intends to add little plaques with alternative names on the wall next to each of the existing structures. “I want you to experience the magic of the image…. I’m not hoping that you leave with images in your mind. I will have succeeded if you leave with a certain kind of feeling," she says.

Conservation Chambers—Museum Bhavan is on till 30 March, 10.30am-6.30pm (closed on Mondays and public holidays), at KNMA, DLF South Court Mall, Saket. For details, visit www.knma.in

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