RANBIR SINGH KALEKA Not Anonymous: Waking to the Fear of a New Dawn

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Not Anonymous: Waking to the Fear of a New Dawn  
Installation view
9:18 loop
Single channel projection on multiple surfaces.
Vadehra Gallery. 

Not Anonymous: Waking to the Fear of a New Dawn by Ranbir Kaleka, is a video installation that creates a sequence of 5 screens in which the viewer is immersed, with small incidents and events occurring with a great precision of timing across the screens. The fragmented narrative it conveys relies on poetic association and refers to the existential survival of marginalised peoples.The artist, Ranbir Kaleka, reported being inspired by the comment of a relative of his about the unrecognised intelligence of donkeys (often assumed to be stupid) and how they helped build towns and cities that became great civilisations. To Kaleka, he was sensitised to the fact that they were frequently mistreated. In Not Anonymous: Waking to the Fear of a New Dawn, we see the severed head of a donkey which bleeds every time some innocent unwary victim falls to random but insidiously fired arrows. The installation has an understated yet menacing quality as a half-concealed man shoots arrows randomly at targets that get struck on the surface of adjoining screens. The viewer is, in this way, literally positioned in the (implicit) cross fire of the arrows. The repercussions of this work in the context of the political status of many marginalised communities in India today does not go lost and carries our experience of this world that the video artwork is creating into a remeniscence of the archaic cycles of human oppression that keep re-surfacing in a cyclical, recurring historical time (a time loop, like the installation). This work also connects with other works by Kaleka, such as Bound, in which we see a black and white image of a prostrate man is projected on a block of charred wood. He is at once convulsed with seizures while at other times struggles to pull out from his pocket a piece of folded paper which is blown away by the wind.

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.