Gallery 354, 2019

Gallery 354’ (2019) reflects upon the namesake gallery within the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s southwest wing, which houses objects from Melanesia. Taking the subdued lighting at Gallery 354 as a departure point, this work is a meditation on exposure, failure, time, loss and darkness.

For its first iteration, the project manifests as a sound and light installation. Upon entering a dark room the viewer is subjected to sensory deprivation. A barely lit wall guides one towards a few objects. The opposite end of the room is enshrouded in pitch darkness, revealed as the eyes gradually adjust*. One may also notice a minimalist bench. An intimate narration in the artist’s voice runs in loop.

The sparse but immersive installation explores the materiality of darkness, positing the darkroom as a space for imagination. The voice narration employs the lyric essay format to expand upon light and darkness, presence and absence, image making apparatus’ and spirit nature. Photography becomes a medium, metaphor and material to complicate our understanding of time and space. As light, retina and perception are brought into play, shifting subjective positions arise - the objects on display, the museum, the artist, and the viewer, become actors in the work. While representation and capture is the notion associated with photography, an elusive nature is posited through a series of aesthetic gestures, raising questions about the agency and affect of the Melanesian objects on display. There are repeated but futile attempts to seek the spiritual, which are possibly thwarted as they are conducted through the shortcomings of a modern lens.

* It takes approximately 10 minutes for the cone cells in the eyes to adapt to the dark, which is almost the length of the voice recording.

2019 © Vikram Divecha