10404 - 20170108 - The MAST Foundation opens first solo exhibition in Italy of Dayanita Singh - Bologna - 12.10.2016-08.01.2017

Museum of Machines, 2013. Archival pigment prints, 38 x 38 cm, each. Courtesy of the artist and Frith Street Gallery, London ©Dayanita Singh.
The MAST Foundation presents the first solo exhibition in Italy of Dayanita Singh, one of the most relevant figures in contemporary photography.

Born in Delhi in 1961, Singh is an acknowledged protagonist of the international art scene and one of the rare Indian photographers who is known all over the world. She is the author of a very peculiar set of works that reflect an extraordinarily personal vision of her country although it explores themes that transcend geographical borders.

During the past five years, her work has been exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Hayward Gallery in London, the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt am Main, the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in New Delhi and the Fundación Mapfre in Madrid. She participated in two consecutive editions of the Venice Biennale, in 2011 and 2013.

After starting her career in photojournalism, with many photo features on India produced in the 90s for important international magazines, Singh abandoned the journalistic language and the typically colonial perspective with which her country has often been portrayed and developed an approach to photography that was both documentary and poetic, creating projects and publications in which the images unfold according to new criteria, displays and narrative rhythms.

Singh has developed a very original form of displaying her photographs. Using a series of interior design components made of wood—folding screens, carts and tables that hint at the modernist grid—she assembles what she herself calls “museums.” These are mobile, portable structures that allow the artist to lend new configurations and new meanings to her works. In these “museums,” through a story told with images but no words, Singh reelaborates personal and collective history, private and public life, presence and absence, reality and dreams, transforming them into a fragmentary ensemble pervaded by a strong sense of humanity, by profound interest and respect for everything that surrounds her— individuals, social situations, objects, archives or machines.

The exhibition organised at the MAST Foundation and conceived by its Photo Gallery curator, Urs Stahel, takes its name from the Museum of Machines, a recent acquisition of the MAST Collection. It proposes about 300 photographs organised in series—in addition to Museum of Machines, there are also Museum of Industrial Kitchen, Office Museum, Museum of Printing Machines, Museum of Men and File Museum, together with a few other works—that tell stories about labour and production; life, its daily management and its archiving. Enormous machines that smoke and steam, working methods and processes, spaces for the execution and organisation of work are presented in a near labyrinthine fashion thanks to the articulate and original display mode. The photographs not only depict production environments, but also create psychological scenarios in which we recognise experiences, suffering and hope.

Critic and writer Aveek Sen has written about Museum of Machines: “As we spend more time with these creatures and contemplate the spaces of encounter they inhabit or conjure up, what begins to rise up within us is, paradoxically, a sense of personality and personhood.”

As Urs Stahel, curator of the exhibition observes, “Today, Dayanita Singh is one of the most famous artists active in the field of photography in India and indeed internationally. In this exhibition, we see not only her work, but we also direct our gaze at a rich artistic life, a powerful, complex life that has become increasingly confident and more mature over the years. All without ever losing its inquisitiveness, its joy in play.”