Minor Work: Vikram Divecha

9 March - 11 May 2017

Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde is pleased to present Vikram Divecha's works in a solo exhibition Minor Work, curated by Murtaza Vali.


Over the last few years, Vikram Divecha has realised a series of ambitiously scaled and publically sited projects across the United Arab Emirates, each realised through an engagement with what he terms "found processes." Collaborating with various institutions, infrastructures, and communities, Divecha identifies hidden seams within pre-existing systems of urban life, through which he introduces "glitches" that, if only temporarily, disrupt the status quo, creating interventions and installations that bring otherwise invisible structures and operations into plain view. 


Boulder Plot (2014) was a monumental but temporary public installation that consisted of a carefully gridded arrangement of boulders sourced from the mountain quarries of Ras Al Khaimah, on the United Arab Emirates' east coast, and destined to become building material for Dubai's hyperactive construction industry. For Shaping Resistance (2015), Divecha collaborated with municipality gardeners in Sharjah to introduce a set of subtle vernacular disruptions into the otherwise regimented hedge design of the popular lagoon-side Al Majaz Park, a temporary intervention that has become a permanent feature in the park. And in last year's Warehouse Project (2016), where the artist converted a warehouse structure in Alserkal Avenue's extension, newly built for art and culture activity, into a fully functioning storage facility for commercial goods, orchestrating a node where two disparate economic systems temporarily intersected, playfully blurring the distinction between art object and commodity.  


Minor Work presents a number of new series related to, emerging from, and reflecting on some of Divecha's past projects. The Road Marking (2017) series, created in collaboration with crews who refresh and maintain road markings across Dubai, revisits Divecha's Urban Epidermis (2012) works, a set of painstaking trompe-l'oeil recreations of sections of local road. In the new series, Divecha isolates the painted mark-in thick, textured gooey thermoplastic paint that uncannily approximates impastoed oil paint-from the substrate of the city, transforming an infrastructural tool for city planning into a means of gestural and formal expression. While some works register the line as spontaneous gesture, others carefully transcribe segments of existing road markings, abstracting info graphics into minimal geometric abstractions. 


The Remapped Sweeper Route (2017) body of work is a set of working drawings Divecha made for Sweeping (2017), a daily performance project involving five sweepers who maintain the streets surrounding the Sharjah Art Museum, recently realised as part of the Sharjah Art Foundation's March Project 2016. Divecha remapped each sweeper's usual route so that it ended outside the museum's entrance, where a row of green trash-filled bags gradually accumulated through the morning, drawing attention to the sweeper's otherwise overlooked labour-by temporarily repositioning sanitation work as art practice-and its relationship to the edifice of the museum. Executed using coloured ball point pen on photocopies of a neighbourhood map obtained from the Sharjah Municipality, Divecha's drawings evoke On Kawara's seminal I Went (1968-79), subtly recasting its existential proclamation of presence as a declaration of the indispensable labour of invisible bodies. 


Grappling with complicated questions of authorship, appropriation, access, and value, the Gardeners' Sketchbooks (2017) revisit key processual residue from Shaping Resistance - a set of sketchbooks used during drawing workshops conducted by Divecha, in which his five collaborators experimented with and developed alternative designs for the park's hedges. Divecha leverages the visibility afforded him through this exhibition to introduce these vernacular expressions, and their primary creators, into the commercial art context through a series of five photographs-each a neutral, almost clinical, image of a two-page spread selected by the individual gardeners themselves. The gardeners will also collaborate with the gallerist to determine the final price, restoring their stake - artistic and financial - in their work while displacing Divecha from the chain of transactions.


Each of Divecha's public projects involves many months of rigorous in-depth research, dialogue, and reflection, as constraints of existing material, space, and labour are negotiated with, as ideas are repeatedly tested through presentation and discussion, and refined before finally being put into action. Minor Work also includes a series of conceptual line drawings in black felt tip pen that wittily illustrate, distil, and reflect on minor moments and unexpected lessons learned through this process. Extending across these distinct series is the prominence of line, a traditionally "minor" mode of mark-making which returns in various guises, as a formal and gestural trope, as a way to articulate outline and volume, as a tool for tracing a path of action, as a vehicle for soliciting vernacular expression, as a means of illustrating a thought and condensing a moment.  


Unlike the ambitious public address of Divecha's recent projects, these works inhabit a more intimate and private register, acknowledged in the exhibition's tongue-in-cheek title. However, "minor" is not meant only as an adjective of diminution. For Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, "becoming-minor" is an act of solidarity with those who are less powerful, through which one can adopt a position of resistance, and possibly even revolution, within and against discourses of power. Paired with "work," in this exhibition it draws attention to the frequently overlooked but absolutely vital labour and forms of working life of Divecha's many collaborators.