Kunsthalle Wien presents Rajkamal Kahlon: Which Side Are You On? from December 1, 2022 to April 9, 2023.
Which Side Are You On? Bringing together pieces from Rajkamal Kahlon’s career spanning over two decades, as well as some new commissions created just for the exhibition at Kunsthalle Wien.
Kahlon’s work explores the interconnectedness of power and visual regimes by delving into narratives that are perceived as scientific and objective while also having a profound influence on shaping the collective imagination and the way we see and understand the world around us.
Each of her pieces contains a tale, whether it is from a book, a series of documents, or historical research. Kahlon’s books are not beloved, nor does she feel attached to the documents she uses—on the contrary, the books are frequently from the heyday of colonialism, with titles such as Cassell’s Illustrated History of India or People of the Earth, full of patronizing clichés, using the dubious scientific methods of nineteenth-century anthropology and ethnology to create an image of inferiority and otherness, justifying colonial and imperialist expansion.
Kahlon drastically modifies the colonial photos, allowing her people, who have been turned into curios by the books’ photographers and authors, to reclaim their uniqueness and dignity. Painting is crucial to this process, and, in contrast to Western painting history, she sees it as “a form of care work—done in service and from a sense of responsibility and care toward others.”
Her work strives to complicate and defy the manner in which painting is frequently reduced to a luxury item. Instead, she creates a space of possibility and provides radical care to the characters of her works. Drawing and painting are transformed into venues of political and aesthetic resistance, with the brutality inherent in colonial and ethnographic representations challenged by beauty, humour, sensuality, and seduction.
Curators: What, How & for Whom / WHW (Ivet Ćurlin, Nataša Ilić and Sabina Sabolović)