Date: 23 April till 28 December 2012
Venue: Sherd Library, NUS Museum
Tautology of Memory is a single channel video shot by artist Rupal Shah at the archaeological site of Ajanta in Western India.* Presented at the Sherd Library of the NUS Museum, the display is mediated through the multiplicity of voices that define an archaeological site, including the echoes of the tour-guide focusing on the murals and frescoes, constantly alluding to and reifying popular perceptions; the artist partializes this reification by employing her child’s exploration of the caves. Simultaneously, curatorial interventions first engage with colonial India’s foremost architectural historian, James Fergusson’s publication Rock-Cut Temples of India, a detailed and systematic documentation of Ajanta containing the photographs by another nineteenth century military-surveyor Robert Gill; and second with a 1927 newspaper report which applauds a decade-long documentation project undertaken by an art school student, Syed Ahmad at Ajanta. Evoking ironies, paradoxes and humour which descend on history and its sites, acutely choreographed between text, fragment and aesthetic, juxtapositions made playful with comments on colonial and postcolonial mappings of archaeological heritage, one is compelled to ask, does Ajanta lend itself for official surveys, archaeological scholarship, artistic projects or the heritage-making industry? What remains asserted, what has been reclaimed?