Receding into absence, nearlyThe ongoing, month-long exhibition at Taragaon Museum that began on May 13 is showcasing the works of German-born and Shanghai-based artist Rolf A Kluenter.
The ongoing, month-long exhibition at Taragaon Museum that began on May 13 is showcasing the works of German-born and Shanghai-based artist Rolf A Kluenter. About 25 photographic pieces and one paint and paper on board ainting/installation currently inhabit the space. Called ‘Kathmandu Augenblick / Blink of an Eye / kSaNa / Ek Chin’, it presents selected works that Kluenter has created in Shanghai from 2003 till date and provides an insight into his deep memories of his long-residency in Kathmandu from 1980 until 2000.
The works range between aesthetically pleasing documentations to stills from his experimental film/video works. The images of Patan’s ‘Asta Matrika Puja’ (1981) and ‘Prajna Paramita Puja’ (1985) or Swayambhu’s ‘Mahakala Puja’ (1990) are taken with a neutral, documentational eye. Here the photographer recedes nearly into absence, but only nearly so: the camera angles and frames of course deliver his presence to us, be it through top and mid shots of the performed religious rites and rituals, including that of a severed, sacrificial buffalo head. We are in fact directed to his omnipresence in the works through a clever visual reminder—the inclusion of a section of a camera-wielding figure at the bottom right corner of the ‘Mahakala Puja’ series. Some works, for example in the ‘Ujeli’ series, are film stills that have been materially played around with in terms of exposure and processing. The juxtaposition of black-and-white positive and negative chromogenic prints of the same subject, a young woman in this case, in different poses and situations immediately push it into the realm of the surreal. They also contain a recurrence of weaves, nets and grids—a formal ingredient that seems to be a favourite of Kluenter’s and is central to the ‘Beyond My Chair’ series of film stills created around the HD video that was part of the 6th Shanghai Biennale. Here the actual weaving process becomes a major theme.
One of my favourites is the ‘Days of Sorrow 1 & 2’, a diptych that falls within the ‘Anima Flux’ series and are photographic images of the Nepali film sequence “Inexistent” of his multi-channel film-installation that was shown at the 54th Venice Biennale among other prestigious venues. The other diptych, part of the same series but focussing on a transgender person, is interesting as well.
One must take note of the fact that Kluenter, a graduate of the renowned Fine Arts Academy of Dusseldorf, chooses to work in Nepal and China instead of focussing on the Euro-American art hubs. What we have seen in this show is obviously a very small section of his oeuvre, which I am sure is not representative of his whole body of work, but nevertheless it shows a keen empathy for Nepal and its culture, and the many issues that continue to trouble it. Which, apparently, is a reflection of his general immersion in the cultures and philosophies of the ‘East’.