SOLO-EXHIBITION by Pallavi Paul
9 February- 6 March 2022
Within the framework of Forum Expanded at Berlinale
breath, existence: سانس ، ہستی
beingness, (living)entity: وجود ، ذات
mediator, moment: طفیل ، لمحہ
Simultaneously the pinnacle and the brink, the Persian lexical morpheme دم denotes the fragile border between life and death. It is the transformation of wind into breath by passing through the body animating it, activating the latter with a power that sustains life. This inherent act has repeatedly been politicized over human history, altering it to a conscious act that lies in a precarious balance. Recent times witness an increased loss of this equilibrium due to the hierarchies of existence that constrict breathing for those placed in the lowest order, where this basic and most crucial right to existence has come to resonate with the consistent struggle against racial and caste violence, police brutality, oppressive regimes, failing systems of care, class asymmetries, and the climate crisis. The Covid-19 pandemic has contributed new challenges to the existing ones by the medicalization of everyday life creating additional constraints to work and mobility that have made these systematic hierarchies even more transparent than before.
How can this condition of breathlessness and suffocation that now defines the act of breathing, beyond its biological aspect, be visualized and translated through the medium of film? In the exhibition THE WIND IN YOUR BODY IS JUST VISITING, YOUR BREATH WILL SOON BE THUNDER, the artist and filmmaker, Pallavi Paul constructs a constellation of argumentative fragments spread throughout the exhibition space that mimic the ebb and flow of the gradual cessation of breath. Extracting strands, the foundations of which lie in the usurpation of breath, she draws parallels between multiple seemingly unconnected events from the past and the present, such as Germany’s first use of poison gas and invention of chemical warfare in WWI followed by its abundant use in WWII as well as Indian caste politics. She has gleaned scientific descriptions of medical records that describe the affliction and researched meditation practices that increase the capacity of breathing. By digging into obscured archives that recount police brutality and conducting interviews with pyre-burners describing the smoke and smell that rises from the burning pyres.
Paul’s practice is invested in excavating the obscured from what is known and established, in the reconstitution of the truth by emphasizing the tension between representation and countenance where she continues to challenge the aesthetic detachment between the filmic and the world. In her process of filming, دم is that significant and inevitable moment between the lived, felt, and expired, where she resolves this detachment by pulling these fragments into a coherent description of what entails breathing now.
THE WIND IN YOUR BODY IS JUST VISITING, YOUR BREATH WILL SOON BE THUNDER is part of a series of solo exhibitions by SAVVY Contemporary in collaboration with Berlinale’s Forum Expanded inviting filmmakers to present research materials from their archives as a means of complementing filmic practices: extra footage, objects, texts, notes collected in the process of filmmaking. In the process of filmmaking, sometimes hundreds of hours of filmed materials are edited down to create the final length of the film. The notion of “killing your darlings” is a method of elimination. But the crucial question is where do the darlings go after being killed? In previous iterations, we sought to resurrect the darlings in an effort to relive the archive and deliberated on the possibility of the three dimensionality of the film screen within the exhibition space. In the current iteration, Pallavi Paul is reversing the process and sharing her extensive research that is on its journey of becoming, by nurturing the darlings she creates a constellation of arguments spread throughout the exhibition space, where traversing and tying them together equals the duration of a film.
Text by Hajra Haider Karrar