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The Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Mumbai City Museum presents "Suitcase Museum" by Dayanita Singh
Suitcase Museum by Dayanita Singh. Image courtsey: Dayanita Singh.

MUMBAI.- The Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum is presenting Dayanita Singh's exhibition, 'Suitcase Museum', a collection of 44 Museum of Chance book-objects. Two suitcases make up this museum, presaging the future form of the museum and both condensing and expanding its boundaries. Singh challenges traditional and existing concepts of photography and pushes the medium to speak through other forms like the book, the museum and the archive.

At the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, which inspired Dayanita Singh early in her career, she appropriates the Museum's syntax and structure, its formal as well as its ideological function to present new ways of looking at and engaging with art works. This exhibition brings together some of Singh's most iconic images revealing her rigorous attention to form and detail to create compelling images that sublimate absence, loss, pain, loneliness and the "unredeemable" footsteps of time.

In the Industrial Arts Gallery Singh presents Museum of Chance, the original museum out of which grew other forms of her museum. The multitude of images both destablise the act of looking and create new ways of engaging with the image. The photographs take on a life of their own compelling the viewer to recurate and reconfigure the exhibits.

Singh's work has evolved to go beyond the immediacy of the image to seek out its formal as well its ontological and spiritual implications. In the first room of the Kamalnayan Bajaj Gallery she invites viewers to share her miniaturised museum space and have a conversation with her about the images. Museum of Shedding is about unloading the past and finding that still centre which comes after many years of practice. By domesticating the space with a bed she suggests that all of us can create our own museums - spaces of retreat and knowing.

In the centre room Singh explores the idea of 'Time'. In Time Measures, the bundles evoke a painterly quality as if each is a portrait of a secret life, of hidden meanings and untold stories. They gaze out at you beckoning you to imagine what might be there behind those casual folds and concealing knots. In the last room Singh pushes the idea of the Museum to its limits. The Suitcase Museum evacuates all the external elements that might impinge on bringing a collection together and ensuring it reaches the farthest possible destinations.

This exhibition is a continuation of the Museum's curatorial series, 'Engaging Traditions', which invites contemporary artists to interrogate the Museum's history and collection.

Dayanita Singh is an artist who uses photography to reflect and expand on the ways in which we relate to photographic images. Publishing is a significant part of Singh's practice: in her books, often made in collaboration with Gerhard Steidl, she experiments with alternate forms of producing and viewing photographs. Singh's latest is the "book-object," a work that is concurrently a book, an art object, an exhibition and a catalogue. Stemming from the artist's interest in the poetic and narrative possibility of sequence and re-sequence, the "book-object" allows Singh to both create photographic sequence and also simultaneously disrupt it.

Most recently, Singh's Museum Bhavan, a series of mobile museums have been shown at the Hayward Gallery, London (2013), the Museum fur Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt (2014), the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago (2014) and the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, New Delhi (2016). She has represented Germany at the Venice Biennale in 2013 and has also premiered her File Room work at the Venice Biennale in 2011.

Singh has also authored eleven books: Zakir Hussain (1986), Myself, Mona Ahmed (2001), Privacy (2003), Chairs (2005), Go Away Closer (2007), Sent A Letter (2008), Blue Book (2009), Dream Villa (2010), House of Love (2011), File Room (2013), and Museum of Chance (2014). Her twelfth book, Museum Bhavan, recently been published with Steidl, is also a pocket museum.

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