Dayanita Singh’s 1.9.2014 Dear Mr. Walter (2014) is a year’s work presented as a series of interconnected movements in life and thought, built into eleven pillars of varying size and a few stand-alone images.
The pillars choreograph the viewers’ encounter and engagement by reinventing the space of photography as sculpture and architecture. They suggest structures of interconnectedness that exist as much in the intangible life of inwardness or inspiration as in actual space. Each pillar is built around informing or founding presences in the life of the artist that are hidden as well as manifest; their existence often realised in the process of bringing them into relation with one another during editing and sequencing.
In this process, the role of chance is crucial and manifold. Unlike Singh’s Museum of Chance, part of her Museum Bhavan and first shown at the Hayward Gallery in London, 1.9.2014 Dear Mr. Walter is not a museum. In it, Singh’s preoccupation shifts from arranging and archiving the fruits of chance to showing the vehicles through which chance operates in a web of human lives. It is when the loss of a beloved friend coincides with the beginning of a new conversation; renewed encounters with a person, place or kind of architecture reveal unexpected patterns of recurrence or change, the hand of chance gestures towards the possibilities of a new form.
In the words of a Henry James, a writer of fiction, to make room for chance in one’s life and work is to recognise that “really, universally, relations stop nowhere” and “the exquisite problem of the artist” is “eternally but to draw, by a geometry of his own, the circle within which they shall only appear to do so”.