Paper City and Ghost Modernity
December 5, 2018 – March 7, 2019
“As a heap of romance novels and legal manuals enter the artist’s studio, Nai is neither invested in their erotic grammar nor in the pronouncement of juridical principles, but rather the gradient of yellow that runs through the outer skins of these books. One cannot help but think of a forlorn lover or a historic appeal waiting between pages—and reckon that we are a country of longing and unfinished business. The artist treats the thousands of books as building blocks, losing their individual character and authorship to become compressed scalar members within vertical architectural schemes. His creative output becomes a performative taxonomy of discarded and resold items—each bearing traces of prior possession.
The wear and tear of an intimate economy is maintained in its raw essence, accumulating as an architectonic maze inside the white cube. By covering a central pillar in Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke with newsprint, the layered installation organically acquires the quality of a gesamtkunstwerk. The smaller book sculptures are negative monuments, characteristic of geologic fossils congealed in time, created through metabolic destruction and then made whole again. From another perspective, they also come to stand in for bodies cramped in chawls and being tightly packed inside hurtling local train compartments—there is a folding of scale and disfiguration in order to coexist as a mutant urban organism.
Across different neighbourhoods from Chor Bazaar in South Bombay to Vikhroli in the East, the artist engages with informal traders and recycling units for materials of use. Over the years he has observed street culture as a realm of spontaneous innovation and carried forward with those markers of influence, lending new constituencies of value and desire to a low-end material spectrum that includes jute, aluminium, recycled paper, and vacant billboards. It is this generous engagement with the city, re-signification of value and terms of exchangeability that has fascinated me when observing Nai’s committed approach.”
Excerpted from the essay Paper City and Ghost Modernity by Natasha Ginwala
Born in 1980 in Gujarat, Manish Nai studied Drawing and Painting at the L.S. Raheja School of Art in Mumbai. His work has been shown in group exhibitions at the Smart Museum of Art, Chicago and the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai. He has participated in the 2nd edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Kerala (2014) and The Sculpture Park at Madhavendra Palace, Rajasthan (2017-18). Solo exhibitions of his work have been held at the Fondation Fernet Branca, St. Louis, France (2017) and Het Noordbrabants Museum, Den Bosch, The Netherlands (2018). He lives and works in Mumbai.