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Indepth Arts News:

"Sutapa Biswas: Birdsong"
2004-05-26 until 2004-06-20
Cafe Gallery Project
London, , UK United Kingdom

This exhibition is a major opportunity to view two stunning new films by Sutapa Biswas, one of the leading artists of her generation. Over the last seventeen years she has created an intensely evocative and challenging body of work, engaging with feminism, cultural identity and memory. Birdsong is a 16mm film co-commissioned by inIVA and Film and Video Umbrella.

Birdsong is a projected film tableau in which a horse is viewed in a domestic interior, standing motionless except for the gentle and subtle movements of its body. Seen through the eyes of a child – whose dream it is to have a horse living in his house – this haunting piece addresses the impossibility of dream and desire and the ‘squeezing out’ of reality. The heavy physical presence of this large animal establishes a tension both with the small origami winged horse shown hanging like a child’s mobile in the accompanying shots and with the iconographic nature of the image. The inspiration for this particular work is Stubbs’ painting Lord Holland and Lord Albemarle Shooting at Goodwood (1759), in which a young black servant can be seen holding his master’s horse.

Magnesium Bird is a beautiful film made in the eighteenth-century walled garden at the stately home of Harewood House in Leeds. It deals with loss, love and trepidation, but also serves as a record of a spectacular and ephemeral performance event, in which small birds sculpted from magnesium are ignited. This footage is intercut with young children running through the gardens and disrupting the poetic stillness of the space.

Through the medium of film, Biswas takes us on a metaphysical journey, exploring the transformative nature of intimate and familial relationships. Having initially established a reputation as a painter in the 1980s, Biswas’s transition to the moving image is informed by a strong painterly aesthetic. She draws on a variety of literary and visual sources in her films, from writings by Marcel Proust and the psychoanalyst Frantz Fanon, to paintings by George Stubbs and Edward Hopper.

A full colour monograph on Sutapa Biswas will be published by inIVA in collaboration with the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery, Reed College, Portland, Oregon, with essays by Ian Baucom, Sutupa Biswas, Guy Brett, Laura Mulvey, Griselda Pollock, Moira Roth and Stephanie Snyder. Available May 2004, £17.50.

Sutapa Biswas: Birdsong is an inIVA touring exhibition produced in collaboration with Film and Video Umbrella and supported by Arts Council England Grants for National Touring, the Arts and Humanities Research Board, the University of Southampton, Chelsea College of Art and Design (University of the Arts, London), Magnesium Elektron and The Culture Company.

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