Life is an Act
It’s with great pleasure that I would like to announce that One on One and Adam Marelli Workshop alumnus Rammy Narula will be having his first exhibition in Bangkok in April. Well beyond the confines of both programs, Rammy has worked tirelessly to develop a body of work in the hopes, and now reality, of an exhibition. The show’s title, “Life is an Act,” looks the mixture of real and artificial elements that exist in city life. Rooted in street photography, the images mix real and artificial elements as he looks at the curious ways in which our imaginations and our local sidewalks merge to form individual realities.
From Paris to Tokyo, Rammy poked, prodded, and explored something that we don’t often see in street photography, a specific theme. Well beyond the simplicities of fanciful compositions of themes like “The streets of Paris,” this show represents his first full scale attempt at tackling the idea that “Life is an Act.” I have not seen the show in its entirety yet, only some of the images along the way. Often times I hear photographers say they don’t want to attempt a show because they don’t feel the work is good enough yet…I say, better to get it out there, get the game day jitters out of your system, and get the first show under your belt. There is always an opportunity to do a “next show.” In all my years of listening to art horror stories, I have never heard of an artist who had a show that was so bad they were never allowed to show again. In fact, if the show is really tragic, it usually gets more press. Remember the illustrious words of Andy Warhol, “It doesn’t matter what they say, I just measure it in inches.” Meaning that Warhol did not read his own reviews, he just collected the articles to see how much was written.
My First Opening
I tell this story, not just to Rammy, but to anyone who is having their first exhibition. My senior thesis show at NYU was nothing short of a disaster. And while my work did not survive (literally it was crushed) there was enough beer and one professor who put it all in perspective for me. Because in the end, we are not saving babies here, we are making art. Although, in the moment, my senior-year-self did not see the humor of the mishap. So what happened? Let me tell you…
I had made a sculpture, of which I no longer have an image. It was made of long acrylic tubes, connected to form a large arch. Each of the tubes was filled with either water or wine. Attached to the ends of the acrylic tubes were surgical tubes with bottles connected at the end. Imagine, if you will, a gatling gun of wine and water. The piece was in the center of the gallery looking, as any college senior might think of their own work, just delightful. Then came along Godzilla, in the form of one of my classmates’ grandmothers.
In a spectacular display of grace and agility, the woman walked through the gallery and tripped on the end of the sculpture. Bad enough right?! Oh hardly. Displaying a level of acrobatics which could have landed her on the Romanian Olympic team, she twisted in a half pike and fell flat on the center of the arch. In slow motion, things went from bad to tragic in about .7 seconds. In a final gesture of hospitality, my sculpture offered itself up as a pillow, which incidentally saved the woman from demolishing her hip. Good for her, but bad for the sculpture. Wine and water exploded in every direction. The tubes bled with poetic brilliance as my semester long sculpture drained to its death on the gallery floor.
Noticeably crushed in sculpture and in spirit, one of my favorite professors, Rupert Goldsworthy, came over and said, “That was just marvellous. Now people will remember that piece forever. Well done.” As I feverishly consumed my beer in an effort to mask my desire to suplex this woman, Rupert went on to explain that most openings are decidedly lacklustre. A bunch of collectors, coupled with young-broke art students out for free drinks. Nothing interesting ever happens. If someone breaks your art and it “bleeds to death on the gallery floor, you’re in luck!”
He was right. It made for a memorable evening. We survived unscathed and Rupert saved me the embarrassment of being known as the only art student to choke out a grandmother an an exhibition. In the end, I was not mad at her. The sculpture never recovered, but then again, early work is designed for the dumpster anyway. Like Cartier-Bresson once said, “You’ve got to get a lot of milk to make a little cheese.”
The point is, no matter what happens, good, bad, or indifferent…have no fear about your first opening. It could not possibly be more disastrous than mine.
Back in the world of photography, one thing I really enjoy about the photo scenes in Asia is that they are closer knit than in the US. The collectives, the online publications, and the galleries do a better job of making a place for photography outside of the documentary or fine art arenas. In fact, it looks like Rammy’s first show has caught the interest of another gallery in Dehli. Goes to show how success can spread like wildfire. Join me in wishing Rammy good luck and success with his show…if it doesn’t go as planned, at least there will be plenty of liquor to wash the evening down.