Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What Dreams?

Where Three Dreams Cross: 150 Years of Photography from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh is the current exhibition at the Whitechapel Art Gallery. It claims to depict 150 years of photography from the subcontinent, of its people by its people. The exhibition is in most parts is not trying to show great photography but how photography has developed in the three countries.


Walking through the gallery it made uncomfortable viewing. It felt like yet another exhibition displaying of the other. In this case, watching how the other uses the camera. Although, this show was curated by Asian artists it did not feel as though their talents shone.

Most of the photographs looked like home albums that many of us Asians possess. There was nothing spectacular about them; what’s so fascinating about family albums of Southasian origin?

So there were portraits of some political leaders like Jinnah, Nehru, Gandhi etc. There were also, some bollywood and lollywood posters and photographs, stills of shows with Asian people in it, pictures of paddy fields and trains. Transvestites, prostitutes, acrobatics, to name others.

Nothing really took fancy to me, but what I found quirky was a selection of photographs of this young Indian boy, with mental health problems; who one day decided he was Mohammed Bin Qassam and converted to Islam, immigrated to Pakistan and rode on his horse in Arab attire. Other than that nothing much held my attention.

It's such a shame, I was really looking forward to this exhibition but its obvious that I am not its audience. I need to be white, (maybe) middle class and someone completely ignorant of the Asian culture to appreciate it because then, all the colours and paddy fields and sarees and women will look ever so "exotic", "powerful" and "in-terest-ing"...

I recommend keep your money for this exhibition. It was merely a tick-box situation, not one for showcasing talent.