Between the Waves
3 Channel Video Installation
Between the Waves is a vivid and lush *5-channel video installation. Shah creates sensual, poetic, heterotopic landscapes within which she places subjects that inhabit personal/political metaphors – embodiments of the queer, eco-sexual, inter-special, technological, spiritual and scientific. Their activities feel archaic and futuristic at the same time, primitive but filled with urgency and agency. How did they arrive in these immersive environments, which surround them and also us? Both seductive and visceral, they could be spaces of refuge or expulsion.
Multiple historic and mythological references are layered, woven and problematised. That which is perhaps most obvious is the reference to Rebecca Horn’s Einhorn (Unicorn), which in turn references Frida Kahlo’s painting, The Broken Column. Horn has described the subject in Einhorn as “very bourgeois”, the (female) creature walks elegantly, more like a mythical creature than an animal, naked but asexual. Shah’s subjects, however, are neither bourgeois or asexual. They are base and unselfconscious, embodying a ritualistic and intuitive exploration, unapologetically seeking closeness.
Shah’s work becomes practically and publicly political through its situated context. The making and dissemination of radical works such as Between the Waves is a real challenge for artists in India where freedom of speech and creative expression all too often face serious censorship from state and non-state actors. Actions of love, sensuality or sexuality being performed by her subjects can be read as assertively political – articulating the right of a subjectivity beyond the scripted gender binary enforced through various expressions of social as well as state repressions in contemporary democracies.
*This installation is a unique configuration of channels 1, 2, and 4, completed with permission from the artist.
b. 1979 in Bhilai (India)
Currently lives peripatetically
Tejal Shah’s is a unique practice that consistently challenges the legible by occupying liminal spaces between fact, fiction and poetry. Working across diverse media such as video, photography, performance, sound, installation and educational projects, Shah positions herself at the intersection of queer ecology, feminism and Non-dual Buddhist philosophy. Exploring the notions of “trans-”—with regard to gender and sexuality, but also to national or cultural identity—Shah’s work inhabits the position of the in-between as a means to destabilise the complacency of patriarchy and the “normative phantasms of a compulsory heterosexuality” (Judith Butler). The body as a gendered and sexualised entity is both medium and subject of their work that, though highly theoretically informed, operates on a very physical, performative level, stressing concepts of multiplicity as opposed to duality or singularity. Theirs is an invitation to examine the relationship between power and knowledge, learned social and political behaviour, and the construction of norms.