RANBIR SINGH KALEKA House of Opaque Water

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> Ranbir Singh Kaleka (ind)

House of Opaque Water 
Installation view
10:34 loop
HD video in 3-screen panels, 149.6 x 213.4 cm.
Exhibited at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Supported by Volte Gallery.The sole protagonist of Kaleka’s video installation, Lalmohan says, “This is my home” whilst travelling with the artist-filmmaker in a boat where they are surrounded by water on all sides. He points to the surface of the water about 6 meters away from him. His house and his village were swallowed up by the water amongst the vanishing mangrove forests of the Sundarban delta in India. The viewer sees nothing except the swirling waters around the boat. He later draws on the mud surface of the river banks the places that characterize the village that he knows by memory, a small village, tehri, that along with forty other local villages was completely submerged when a local dam burst. The migration and rehabilitation process has divided families and destroyed community bonds. Kaleka narrates this story- not in the style of a documentary, but rather as a poetic visual investigation. The layering of images recreates loss and displacement through iconic and oneiric memory. The three screens of the projection are used to slice through panoramas and wide water-scapes that are cut off in their motion of unfolding. The house, the notion of shelter and the interruption of our space of habitation and intimate being, is what the artist is exploring here. This encounter between Lalmohan and Kaleka suggests a rite of healing that he is inviting Lalmohan to experience after the trauma. 

Born in Patiala, Punjab (India) in 1953, Ranbir Kaleka’s initial career evolved as a Painter, graduating from the respected College of Art in Chandigarh. Often termed ‘surrealistic’, Ranbir Kaleka’s works often follow a dream logic, refraining from explicit narratives. Though his earliest works from the 1970s seemed more internalised, weaving together seemingly unrelated, fantastic elements, his later works remain open ended, making their viewing an interactive experience for his audiences. His works present themselves as canvases on which the viewer may project her/his subconscious associations, subverting the apparent ambiguity in his imagery. In the later phase of his career he found expression in video art, projecting video onto painted canvases. Here too, the works attempt mobilise the ways of understanding narrative, such as in Powder Room (1999-2000) through the use of a reflective surface. His video work Man with Cockerel was chosen for a group show at CASA ASIA – Indian Narrative in the 21st Century: Between Memory and History at Madrid and Barcelona in Spain in collaboration with Walsh Gallery. The artist currently lives and works in New Delhi.