Critics’ Picks

Mehreen Murtaza, Comet Bennet over Delhi, Humayun’s Tomb March 1970, 2013, ink-jet print on copper sheet and wood, 17 x 12 x 2".


“The Missing One”

Office for Contemporary Art Norway
Nedre gate 7
October 27–January 15

“The nation is, like new Western brands of tinned food, as little touched by the human hand as possible,” wrote the lauded Bengali poet and artist Rabindranath Tagore in response to the advance of British colonization in Bangladesh. Tagore’s reading of how capitalist technology dehumanized politics gains new, brutal significance in our current era. The poet is the shadow figure behind “The Missing One,” an exhibition of twenty-two artists from the Indian subcontinent. Titled after an 1896 science-fiction tale written by writer and scientist Jagadish Chandra Bose, the show considers the role of speculative fiction in contemporary art from this region of the world.

Resurrection, ca. 1922, a gouache-on-paper painting by Gaganendranath Tagore (Rabindranath’s nephew), provides a historical anchor. The composition places a saintly figure and cross at the center of a quasi-Cubist rendering of billowing clouds, evoking both sublime ascension and spectacular violence. The other works here have all been made since the late 1990s and are separated into three categories: “Staring Up at the Sky,” “Alienation,” and “Light Blindness.”

Spirituality meets rationality in the sky-gazing section. Works such as Lahore-based artist Mehreen Murtaza’s photograph on copper of a comet, perched on a fluted wooden base (Comet Bennet over Delhi, Humayan’s Tomb March 1970, 2013), express a collision of technology and tradition. The exhibition’s strength, however, lies in the pieces that relate a South Asian aesthetic to Afrofuturism. These include Aamir Habib’s spectacular photo, acrylic, and LED sculptures and Mariam Suhail’s There were sightings . . . this will be a significant year, 2007. The latter, a video, depicts figures in Tyvek suits at the then-new National Art Gallery in Islamabad, Pakistan, examining artworks as though they were extraterrestrial specimens. Tejal Shah’s Landfill Dance, 2012—a video created as part of her Documenta 13 project, Between the Waves—infuses sci-fi with a pop twist, as otherworldly white-clad figures dance through a junkyard.