The Cadere in Premnath’s Cadere/Rose, refers both to the word falling in Italian, as well as to André Cadere (1934-1978), the Polish-born artist who acquired a reputation of an annoying crank in the Paris art world of the 1970s, by discreetly leaning works of his, known as Barres de Bois Ronde—essentially wooden dowels painted in segments in successive variation—against the walls of other artists’ exhibition spaces. This act posits a split between the materialized aspect of the work and the performative act of its placement. The latter presupposes the presence of the artist (the sine qua non of any performance whether actual or recorded). But the material work that remains also evokes an enduring theme of a shift in authorial identity. By its colored surface, angular placement, and sheer tension with its context, the bars inevitably riveted the gaze of viewers, and reconfigured the spatial criteria of the exhibition so as to entirely subsume it, and shift the authorship of the exhibition to Cadere. But, like the readymade that reverts to its original function once removed from a space for viewing art, the Round Bars have only to be removed from their exhibition context to be divested of their capacity to usurp the authorship of an exhibition. In this sense, the material object itself undergoes an identity shift by virtue of its fluid context, and, also, more specifically, in relation to its proximity with the artist’s person, the criterion for whether it is a performance prop or a fully-constituted art object with both formal and conceptual aspects.
These themes of shifting authorial identity; the shifting status of the materialized artwork in relation to the general context, and the more specific condition of proximity to the person of the artist; the shifting identity of the artist in the perception of the viewer—in turn a function of the artist’s own physical context and that which has informed or distorted the viewer’s perceptions and even distorted conclusions—all these are compounded by Premnath’s recapitulation of formal allusions to Cadere’s work, in Cadere/Rose. This fluctuation of the artwork between object and index is apparent in Premnath’s series of folding rulers, which lean against walls, painted red with rose extract only to be occasionally interrupted by segments of chroma key green and the lines of measurement that reveal the function of the ruler.
By “expropriating” his own exhibition, Premnath stands Cadere’s original performative act on its head, but without diminishing a multiplicity of potentials of authorial identity—none of which would deny his own authorship of the work, but which, instead, provoke us to experience an oscillating system of versions of authorship in tension with each other.
One of these has to do with the Rose of the title, a performative action documented in the print Recto/Verso and accompanying texts. As a native of India, the artist could not but notice that his physical aspect, in a very general sense, resembled that of many Bangladeshi immigrant flower sellers who hawked roses in the squares of Rome, the city of his exhibition. At first confident of any onlooker’s perception of his identity, the artist realized that, “If I were holding a bouquet of roses, I too would disappear.”
The invisibility of the immigrant in his/her new surrounding, the effacement of individual identity the places and its perceptions impose—these conditions not only extend the displacement of authorship in Cadere, but allow us to reflect on his own immigrant condition of invisibility in Paris, and on the condition of all the immigrants whose identities continue to remain invisible to us even as they circulate in our midst.
This strange relation to space that infuses immigrant status becomes ever more acute in the videos titled Sleeping Dogs, and the installation Plot, which take the contradictory relation between the bodily occupation of space, and the ownership of property as their point of departure. The dogs sleep in the midst of cities where they are vulnerable, in spaces to which they have no juridical right. Compelled by necessity, their occupation of these spaces evokes a relation to space that transcends ownership, and which we do not easily transgress. In this sense, not only does the context change our perception of the art object or that of personal identity, but also a shift in attention that can change our perception of a context.
Sreshta Rit Premnath (born 1979, Bangalore, India) is the founder and co-editor of the publication Shifter. He has had solo exhibitions at Nomas Foundation, Rome; KANSAS, New York; Gallery SKE, Bangalore; The Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis; Tony Wight Gallery, Chicago; Galerie Nordenhake, Berlin; Wave Hill, New York; Art Statements, Art Basel. He has participated in numerous group exhibitions at venues including Queens Museum, New York; YBCA, San Francisco; Galerie Balice Hertling, Paris; 1A Space, Hong Kong and Thomas Erben Gallery, New York.
He completed his BFA at The Cleveland Institute of Art, his MFA at Bard College, and has attended the Whitney Independent Study Program, Skowhegan and Smack Mellon. He has received grants from Art Matters and the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, and was awarded the Arthur Levitt Fellowship from Williams College.
Based in Brooklyn, Premnath is Assistant Professor at Parsons, New York.
Metonymic Narrative, wherein the materialized art work becomes a metonym for an inherently dematerialized narrative of the artist's own invention or choosing.
This means that:
There is usually no immediately discernible formal relation between the materialized art work and the narrative without reference to the narrative itself.
The art work and the narrative operate in tension with each other, a tension between materialized work as metonym with no immediately discernible formal relation, and dematerialized narrative that imparts a hermeneutic of the materialized aspect of the work-as-metonym.
Contrary to tendencies of the 90s such as Relational Aesthetics and other theories and tendencies rooted in the radical relativism of postwar French thought, this Metonymic Narrative poses a radical reassertion of authorship.
This reassertion of authorship is so extreme that it extends even to the referent, which also is contrived by the artist who imposes his/her narrative on it (colonization of the referent by the artist's contrivance is new in art history).
The result of this way of making art is that it invests the materialized work with an immensely greater representational range; it shifts the center of gravity of the reception to a range of interpretation determined by the artist, while making this act part of the inherent tension in the work, because it subsumes distinctions between art's materialized and dematerialized aspects.
Falling is the first of a projected series of Metonymic Narrative exhibitions in various Los Angeles locations
A partial list of Metonymic Narrative Artists: Julieta Aranda; Constant Dullaart; Mai-Thu Perret; Daniel Steegman-Mangrané; Jia; Philipp Lachenmann; Gregor Schneider; Manfred Pernice; Sreshta Rit-Premnath; Edmund de Waal; Priscila Fernandes; Sirous Namazi; Adrian Lohmüller, Taryn Simon.