Critics’ Picks

View of “Social Theatre,” 2013.

Mumbai

Amol Patil

Clark House Initiative
8 Nathalal Parekh Marg, Clark House Building Ground Floor
October 22 - December 15

The story of Amol Patil’s family, which inspired his impressive debut solo exhibition, “Social Theatre”, is not entirely unusual. The artist’s deceased father, Kisan Patil, a rural migrant who found employment as a clerk with the municipality of Mumbai, was an amateur actor and a Marathi-language playwright committed to expressing the concerns of the working class. Through this show, the artist memorializes his father’s creative work that has been lost due to a lack of proper documentation.

Patil has inferred details about his father’s plays from production stills and anecdotes. The black-and-white video Asylum for Dead Objects, 2013, refers to a play set in a psychiatric hospital. Eight avatars of the artist appear in a single frame, performing bizarre gestures that are meant to represent props such as a rotating table fan, a fluttering newspaper, and a swinging pendulum. The video screen is flanked by six black boards that resemble the wings of a stage. The sketches on the boards are based on photographs—reproduced here in the wall-mounted booklet Maquette, 2013—of Kisan Patil in a play called Postcard from the early 1980s about a textile-mill worker’s struggle to cope with the absence of his wife. The interstices in the characters’ long-distance correspondence as well as the inevitable gaps in Patil’s dialogue with his deceased father seem to have inspired Postcard Conversation, 2012. The work comprises two dismantled tape recorders connected to a single reel, one device continuously recording and the other playing the recorded sounds.

The underlying narrative of “Social Theatre” and the themes of Patil’s father’s plays encourage reflection on the contrasts between village and city life and the tragic placelessness of a migrant. Two works strikingly demonstrate this dichotomy. The video Un-acting Act, 2013, shows a metal cube that has been beaten from the inside—it appears as if someone was trapped within, hammering at the walls in order to escape. Nearby, Contest of the Illusionists, 2013, features a slab of soil, gently vibrating as if on the verge of being displaced by what lies beneath.