Mumbai-based artist Sahej Rahal’s installations, films and performances are part of an elaborate personal mythology he has created by drawing characters from a range of sources, from local legends to science fiction. By bringing these into dialogue with each other, Rahal creates scenarios where strange and indeterminate beings emerge as if from the cracks of our civilisation, challenging the ways in which we experience time and space. He is best known for public performances he has done in Mumbai, a city of enormous contradictions and collisions which has shaped the playful irreverence with which he approaches art-making.
For Harbinger (2014), Rahal spent months in Kochi, scouring it for objects and ideas that went into the creation of an installation of fantastical creatures, quasi-architectural elements, video and performance.
Sprawled over a disused laboratory in Aspinwall House is an anchor, an ancient blade, an array of astronomical devices, monoliths, visors, ceremonial masks and sci-fi automations with twiddling appendages– echoes of unformed futures in unfired clay. The cracked and crumbling structures point both forward and backward, to the very beginnings of civilisation and its aftermath. Detritus from the abandoned sets of films shot in Aspinwall House were repurposed by the artist to create the armatures of his sculptures, giving the cinematic a permeating afterlife in clay. According to Rahal, in Harbinger, “The promise of precision offered by the laboratory space is met with the possibility of a release where fiction and history collide.”
In the course of the Biennale, the installation will come alive in a live performance by Rahal.