Digitize This, by Marlene Bruce



Sackler Gallery, Washington DC

July 18, 2003

My boyfriend Rash visited this weekend, and we browsed three exhibits at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery (by the Smithsonian castle) …

Twenty Monkeys (and Noguchi)

At right is a sculpture which currently hangs down the main staircase at the Sackler. Monkeys Grasp for the Moon, by Xu Bing, is "an installation of word shapes, each one a representation of the word 'monkey' rendered in 20 languages and writing systems including Chinese, Japanese, English, Thai and Braille."

Monkeys Grasp for the Moon is about 5 stories high, with 3 stories of it visible at right, 2 more in the first pic below. At the bottom is a shimmering pool with well-wishers' coins. (We decided to drop a coin from the stairway shown, but didn't quite figure on the coin's trajectory curving as it fell, causing it to bounce off the hanging sculpture, and finally tinkling across the floor a level or two down. Oops!)

Here are a few related pics, including one of the signs and a symbol key for 10 of the languages represented.

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Also, here's one pic of a Noguchi clay sculpture, which was in one of the exhibits we browsed. I appreciated some of Noguchi's work, but much of it didn't speak to me or elicit an emotional response.

King of the Road

Featured in the last year in Smithsonian Magazine (apparently, I couldn't pinpoint the issue), this Pakistani truck takes the "Art Car" concept to new heights of skill and realization. The vehicle pictured below is apparently one of thousands—all decorated—being used daily all over Pakistan.

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Full view (114k) Sign (82k) Front (102k)

Door detail (72k) Wheel well (64k) Side view (70k)

I've also put up a really big version of the door detail (1200x1600, 312k), so those of you interested can really examine the carving and other ornamentation.

Raghubir Singh's Photos

The exhibit I was most enthused about, "Auto-Focus: Raghubir Singh's Way Into India" didn't allow me to take pictures (but see below). Singh's photographs—with India's widely used "Ambassador" car as a common thread—opened my eyes to a new approach to photography ... one in which sponteneity is a key element to nearly every picture.

Here's an Ambassador car on display at the Sackler (yes, you can get inside):

"At times used as a taxi, delivery truck for slaughtered chickens or shelter from sun and pouring rain -- even a rolling bedroom when the need arises -- the Ambassador is, in Singh's hands, a compositional device as well, a setting against which the artist's often teeming Indian streetscapes take place. Sometimes aiming his lens through an open door or catching the reflection of his countrymen in a well-placed sideview or rearview mirror, Singh uses the car as both architecture and artistic duck blind, a form of urban camouflage that enables him to shoot the world around him while blending invisibly into the background." [source]

Here are a few pictures gathered from around the web. More images than were actually exhibited can be found in the book A Way Into India. Sure wish I had lots more to share!

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