Amar Kanwar’s video installation The Lighting Testimonies presenting at AIC currently could easily give you an unexpected thrilling experience. Within a small dark room, 8 projections were installed respectively on four sides of the wall, each showing a different documentary story of a woman retelling and re-counting her traumatized memories of sexual violence. A highly involvement space was the first impression this work left on me. However, if you expect a lively theater experience from it, you might be disappointed by the following 30 minutes you continue to spend here.
Cameras were presumably to ensure a sense of reality, which equally considered being the premise of film and photography art. How to deal with such sense of reality becomes many artists’ major concern. At first glimpse, Kenwar’s work looks like a comprehensive narrated documentary (this still remains part of the artist’s intension for creating this piece), however, the more you immerse into these memories of others, the better you see what you are generating and projecting from this interpreted political and historical narration you are perceiving.
To my understanding, once imagination representing private memories and experiences had been exhibited through a sharable medium, in the meanwhile connotes something significantly to its viewers. Works that clearly articulate the relation between themselves and the reality through a personal stance are not only more open to emotional projection from the audience, but also more likely to provoke fruitful and productive criticism and theorization. Nevertheless, the potential misgiving would then fall into the uncertainty of proper separation between the content/subject conveyed through the screen and its significance to the viewer as an individual, which also defines the fundamental value of the work.
In this dimension, the artist did a good job in mediating the individual and collective experience by connecting the subject and the viewer in a much more complicate way. The incapability of seeing the whole picture, the impulse of communicating, the inevitability of neglecting, and the limitation of “justice” are all showcased and addressed through these still cameras and projections, poetic and disturbingly.
If you’d like to go and check this piece out by yourself, my tips for you as an audience would be give more patience to Mr. Kenwar, slow down your usual pace for grasping videos, pay some attention to what these women were trying to tell, and be ready to encounter with yourself through it.