Mistaking < > for Direction Signs is Pallavi Paul’s first solo exhibition. The show traverses imagined conversations between poets living across historical epochs, propositions for post-humanity, cryptograms from World War II, residues from performances in an empty museum, amongst other speculations.
An inherent suspicion of ‘evidence’, alongside the search for sites where historical combustion can become a playful critical interface pulls together these seemingly different works. Paul’s primary interest lies in taking ‘found situations’ and reconfiguring them to present fantastical possibilities. It is this impulse that takes Mistaking < > for Direction Signs into terrains such as architecture, espionage, poetry, time travel, botany, prosthesis and cinema.
In the trilogy of essay films- Nayi Kheti(2013), Shabdkosh(2013), Long Hair, Short Ideas(2014), the artist creates three unfeasible conversations. Taken from the fascinating anarchic text ‘After Lorca’, poet Jack Spicer writes to Garcia Lorca nearly twenty years after his death and unlike the book, in the video, amidst relentless velocity of images and sounds, Lorca has to write back. Shabdkosh occurs in the silences between poems- a contemplation of the need to be heard against the imperatives of forgetting. Many forms of ‘last records’ are conjured to create ‘deceased time’. A time that is not simply un-alive, but has a force much beyond the world of the living. Long Hair Short Ideas creates a conversation between the pressures of excavating a political moment and the elasticity of the documentary form. The film is constructed around Vidrohi's (the revolutionary poet) wife and her relationship to the radical movement of the 1970s in India.
The Post Humans Were Here* is an assemblage of sculptural objects negotiating the space between organs, machine parts and botanical occurrences. Also featuring a looping video, the remnants of a future collide with ghosts of analogue glitches and early photography to create an imagined landscape in perennial swirl.
Burn the Diaries** is a work that concerns itself with espionage and ciphers. It contains a collection of play fair code cards held by the National Archives in London. Photographed by the artist like portraits, these practice cards were used by British spies undergoing training during the Second World War to learn how to code words into the play fair cipher. Not used as part of the “official” war effort, these practice cards remain repositories of stray thoughts, desires.
Surrounding this world of espionage are also drawings gesturing towards landscapes that occur in the errors between codes. As a part of the larger curiosity around the world of espionage the show features vignettes from the artist’s performance at the Imperial War Museum, London where she created a speech act from the personnel file of Noor Inayat Khan, a secret agent of Indian origin.
Paul’s works have been shown at Tate Modern Gallery(London), Edinburgh Art Festival(Edinburgh), Hundred Years of Experimentation (1913- 2013) Retrospective of Indian Cinema and Video (Mumbai), Experimenta Film Festival(Bangalore), Mumbai Film Festival(Mumbai). She has been an artist in Residence at Delfina Foundation (London), Vancouver Biennale (Canada), KHOJ Intl. Artists’ Association (New Delhi) and SARAI City as Studio (New Delhi).
Special thanks -
*KHOJ Intl. Artists’ Association (New Delhi), Vancouver Biennale(Canada)
** Delfina Foundation (London), Charles Wallace India Trust & INLAKS Shivdasani Foundation