THE MOTHER OF MUSEUMS
SPACES WITHIN SPACES. MUSEUMS within museums. Compact and foldable, they are entire worlds in themselves. Together, they are a vast realm of memories going back to 1981, when she started photographing.
And so there is a Museum of Little Ladies and a File Museum, a Museum of Men and the Museum of Photography, Museums of Factories, Furniture and Vitrines, as well as a Museum of Chance.
Dayanita Singh’s Museum Bhavan is a mother museum, holding within it nine smaller museums. Her museums give birth to other museums. But she is quick to add that they aren’t mating.
Her journey began by asking herself the question: could the museum itself be not just a venue, but a form in itself? “I am making museums as a form and architecture,” she says. “My work is so much about the dissemination and opening and closing of structures, adding and removing objects.”
Arranged in clusters, her museums act as screens. Folded, they are immersive spaces where you can pull out a stool and lose yourself in time. Open another, and you might find a table and two stools, with no backrest. So that you can lean in, and listen to the other.
For her most recent Museum Bhavan, Dayanita has as her raw material 800 photographs. Each structure has 140 photographs inside it, but only 40 can be displayed at any given point.
Her mother’s bedside drawer was always full of things. It was my personal museum of clips, says Dayanita. “My house was full of albums. To me, you printed a photograph to make something. The book was an obvious format. My mother would tell me that someday these photographs will be of tremendous importance. A photograph is when a lot is left unsaid.” But then if you are a poet or a dancer, it opens up incredible and infinite possibilities.
She is interested in events unfolding outside the frame and in pictures interacting with each other to form part or whole of a narrative. She doesn’t believe in captioning her images. Facts limit the scope of a picture. Place it in another context, and you can have a million other narratives, a million other chances.
Next on her agenda is a pocket museum. She already has a suitcase museum.