To watch your own outline suddenly fill with pictures briefly creates the sensation of your own body actually dematerializing, of being neither here nor there...The technology might be new, and the content may be based in modern cultural flux. But the result is completely traditional in its effort to render time and space within illusion.
As we struggle to represent ourselves, we swing back and forth between word and image, shadow and reality. The jet lag of cultural transition intensifies this situation, sketched at Between the Borders by Cynthia Pachikara, who spent much of her childhood en route between India and the United States. Her brilliantly concise video installation uses three carefully positioned projectors and the intervening bodies of viewers…Memory and identity here seem equally evanescent, caught in the oscillations of presence and absence.
In the most complex photo-work exhibited in Chicago in living memory, Cynthia Pachikara has delivered an intense, compressed and possibly interminable experience. Walk into Pachikara’s photo-installation and confront a wall on which a twenty-five-year-old portrait of her South Indian extended family is obscured by text recounting an early memory of a trip to India taken by Pachikara, which is, in turn, overlaid by a video of a blackened man on a swing. Pachikara’s ‘super-flat’ compression is achieved by projecting Xerox transparencies and video on the wall. Walk toward the bright wall in the darkened room and your shadow will reveal, behind the text, members of Pachikara’s family staring out at you intently, engineering a genuine encounter...
More lyrical, Cynthia Pachikara’s ethereal installation Pacing,Yourself (1998) provided a personal touch. It consisted of wall-projected images redolent of the Portland-based artist’s memories of her native India. Interactive, the work could be altered by visitors as they passed in front of the projection beams, sometimes entirely blocking out the artist’s own images with their shadows. Providing a balance to the more heavy-handed works in the show, this installation underscored the fluid, ever-changing makeup of cultural memory.
In Pachikara’s work, presence is a disruption of a complex whole: it is an act of displacement that is reinforced by each movement of the viewer. Wherever the spectator moves, there is a disruption and then a ‘leaking’ out of another story, another image. Here movement cannot maintain the stability of the original unity. Disconnected layers, one sitting on the next, are not visible until a blocking agent/spectator enters the site. As much as one may move to see or complete the whole, that is, to ‘get the whole story,’ recover a past place through memory or desire, the viewer is confronted with the irrecoverable nature of the storied past she seeks to reconstruct. In his poem ‘Keeping things Whole,’ Mark Strand writes: ‘In a field, I am the absence of field. This is always the case. Wherever I am, I am what is missing…I move to keep things whole.’ In this way, Pachikara engineers the viewers’ construction of experiential wholes that are as fictive as the illusory depths of the pictorial planes they seem to see.
Pachikara’s is a haunting work, elegant, mysterious and one that invites repeat investigations.
Artist Cynthia Pachikara of the University of Michigan produces work that springs from a trick of the stage lights seen during a dance collaboration. When viewers enter her installations, their shadows become a cutout, revealing an image from a previously unseen transparency or video. Pachikara explains, ‘The shadow becomes an aperture for seeing other layers of hidden light imagery.’ Viewers sweep their arms and scoot along the wall to reveal more of the underlying picture.