Backtrack: Narendra Yadav’s Brought Up As Rabbit

I think the first work I saw of his was a towering pile of chairs. There was also a gruesome looking work involving a foetus in a microwave or something like that. There was also the installation that asked viewers to come, pick up a random photo from a pile he’d collected and shred it. I think he’d also created a camel-like animal with a little LCD screen for a head. Not sure. But these are pictures from his last show, held at Gallery Maskara in March 2012.

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Yadav’s work is very hit and miss. In a lot of his work, there’s a desperate need to create a spectacle and be ingenious, which makes the art feel very contrived.¬†Brought Up As Rabbit had less of that desperation. I remember entering, seeing a metallic teddy bear and a message in neon, and feeling a little disheartened that Yadav had succumbed to copying Jeff Koons and Tracy Emin. But it wasn’t quite as obvious as that. The gallery was dark for Yadav’s show, which made you feel like you were entering some sort of secret hideout. I’m still not sure what “Brought Up As Rabbit” is about, other than referencing Koons’s “Rabbit”. I remember seeing Donnie Darko¬†and thinking of “Rabbit”. I found that faceless, shiny … thing horrifying. Yadav’s metallic teddy bear is less frightening but it is definitely eerie. It’s as though the teddy bear, one of those long-standing symbols of childhood comfort, is being groomed to become an agent of fear. It’s certainly not comforting. There’s also a sense of futility in “Brought Up As Rabbit” because after all, Koons’s “Rabbit” is not one that can be replicated (thank you god). To try and turn a bear into a rabbit, to attempt to slyly copy an artwork valued so highly — it’s silly and perhaps a comment on the way artists try to make a buck by riding on trends.

The neon pink Arabic sign supposedly reads “Trust me” and it is very Tracey Emin-esque (I think Yadav was quite open about being inspired by her). It was on the wall right opposite the projected skyline that has an aircraft going into it. Except if you look closely, it’s the after-effects of 9/11: the skyline has Islamic domes in it and the aircraft is a drone. This video projection piece (can’t remember what it was called) was the tour de force of Brought Up As Rabbit. It was a fantastic sight. An upside down world against a pink sky, in which a drone follows its charted path through the skyline again and again. Nothing is destroyed, nothing stops. The buildings remain as does the drone. There’s an earlier work of Yadav’s, in which he created a 9/11-inspired sculpture out of two steel towers that were punctured by a paper plane (as though terrorism is child’s play). I wasn’t too taken with that one. It seemed very obvious and a little callous to me. This new work, on the other hand, I like a lot. With the Arabic trust me gleaming on the opposite wall, it’s almost as though it’s that colour that’s lit up the sky and the performance of war is being enacted upon it, like a video game on loop.

After all this drama, the final work in the show was an installation. Yadav had filled an entire wall with black and white photographs. They were obviously photographs from family albums, much like the ones Yadav had collected for his earlier work that shredded photos. Again, there’s that feeling of violating someone’s privacy. In the middle was a mirror. I presume if you looked in it, you’d probably find your own face looking like something that’s been framed and mounted as part of this family of photographs. As far as I recall, I wasn’t tall enough to look in. The wall in that dimly-lit room looked spectacular, even if it was a pain for midgets like me to get a closer look. It felt like a strange limbo, or a waiting room from a dream, in which all you have is the past.

Still a touch contrived, but good stuff.

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