Navjot Altaf's new multimedia and video installation

Splendid springs of light give an illusionary feel of multiple entrances to this unconventional exhibition. A hundred photographs with images of an unusual measuring unit used by tribal community inhabiting dense forests of Bastar in Madhya Pradesh populate one wall. One also gets to see photographs of a young fellow, whose identity is anyone's guess. His photo-images with the object looking in various directions are juxtaposed with one another. Mirrors occupy another wall and in the backdrop one gets to hear chanting of a myth.

It's a photo, video and light based work, installed in a tight-knit formation around the walls and the floor of level one at Sakshi gallery by Navjot Altaf. According to the artist, the exhibit revolves around the myth of tribal community in Bastar where she happened to go for one of her art projects.

It's a ritually enacted myth performed and sung mainly by women to ensure the well being and wealth of the people that she has explored. She has spent close to eight years to understand the subtlety and nuances of the epic myth and to work on it. 'My conception of the 'Jagar' here is not to interpret the narrative but as to share the essence of the narrative perceived and experienced by me,' she elaborates.

Navjot's pursuing modes of social relevant art practices has resulted in several collaborative and cooperative art projects over last more than two decades. Navjot's works thread together the artist's deployment of diverse media and divergent strategies. It is a fresh approach of mingling art and politics.

Her 'Mumbai Meri Jaan', a four-channel projection, is made on the cusp between documentarist reality and fiction. Abstract details and animations are coded into the testimonies on the migrant condition. Three parts of the film is a psychological interpretation of narrated experiences of three teenagers who have come to Mumbai city for different reasons and how they are dealing with the reality of their dreams. The fourth part of the video deals with the issue of migration, what compels people to shift from one place to another. 'Lacuna in Testimony', presented as a three-channel projection, is a film made in the aftermath of the communal riots in Gujarat in 2002,

Navjot's works were included in 1999 in the First Fukuoka Triennale in Fukuoka, Japan; in Century City at Tate Modern, London in 2001; in subTerrain at House of World Culture, Berlin, Germany and at the 8th Havana Biennale in Havana, Cuba in 2003. Currently her installation Water Water is on view in Groundworks, an environmental collaboration in contemporary art at the Carnegie Mellon University Galleries in Pittsburgh, PA. Navjot has been invited to participate in the upcoming XV Sydney Biennale in 2006.

Her new installation follows a path of unconventional expression. There are three main protagonists who form core of the installation: They are the messengers of the gods in the myth who in her photo-images, are played by young tribal men. The artist perceives them as characters who make the story possible by actually executing the orders of the gods. Her installation becomes an experience of what the myth evokes in her. As part of the show, Altaf has, also included 'Water Weaving' a video projection based on a myth of the origin of weaving. The piece of art is based on a tale narrated to the artist as part of the local folklore.

In interpreting the tale for her video, she does not merely develop a linear account of the unfolding events of the myth. Images of the yarn, threads, the sun and water dissolve into one another. A viewer experiences in her film a pattern of symbolically resonant images. The figure of the weaver reappears to remind the viewer of the specific reality in the abstract rhythm of the video.

As art critic Nancy Adajania mentions: 'The recurrent, interweaving frames sustain Navjot's film. In them warp crosses weft to generate fabric - underscoring the action of the male and female principles, this image permits the artist to reflect on the play of opposites from which all creation proceeds.'

She has been involved in a residency project involving artists from the tribal belt in an attempt to move away from the individualistic predisposition of an urban artist towards group creativity. Navjot's multimedia and video installation is on view at Sakshi Gallery till January 18, 2006.

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