There is a possibility that I might shift an image after this conversation,” says Dayanita Singh, as she talks about an ongoing exhibition of her works — an exhibition that she has titled Museum Bhavan — or a collection of museums, made of images taken by her over the years.
Nine structures working as photo frames, which Singh refers to as ‘photo-architecture’, function as repositories in which her images are presented in varying combinations. The structures, says the artist, are self-sufficient and function as sites of display, preservation, circulation and storage. Each structure can be placed and opened out in different ways, she says.
The internal relationships among them have evolved through the endless process of editing that Singh says is the key to the presentation. “You make an edit of 100 images but they must work in any combination. Any curator can display them in any combination and it should still work. The content should not determine the combination,” says Singh.
While File Museum and Museum of Little Ladies are ‘sibling museums’ — a term used by Singh to explain the connection between the two, the Museum of Photography and Museum of Furniture are ‘cousins’. Museum of Chance has all images that came together because of chance and are not connected by content. There is nothing in particular that determines how often Singh changes an image in one of the museums and what the new combination of images will be.
The artist’s mood, a piece of writing that she comes across, a quote or a conversation, may equally influence her to do so. Like recently a conversation planted in her head the idea of a museum of ‘Chandigarh Chairs’. “Museums keep growing organically and keep blossoming. It has to do with conversations, something you say will trigger something in me and I will move an image,” says the artist.
Singh’s medium is photography and book is her primary form, but museums give her a satisfaction that is unlike working with any other form, she says. “It is the most satisfying because it allows me both to display the work and to keep growing and changing,” she explains. For the viewers, the exhibition provides a rare glimpse into the abstract working of the artist’s consciousness.