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Embedded Memory

Embedded Memory

Manifested Ratios at GALLERYSKE Bangalore

By Vasundhara Sellamuthu


Manifested Ratios presents Astha Butail’s exploration on the functioning of oral traditions through her expanded field of art practice. In the oral tradition, a movement of memory over time thrives without a formal writing system, like an open book. Forming connections and links between one generation and another, knowledge and cultural material is codified and put into streams of memory. The oral tradition performs in a radically similar manner to the process of accessing data on the Internet, wherein data is approached through multiple open doors or windows, creating frames of access that are in dynamic dialogue with one another.

Forming a part of Butail’s ongoing open book project, Stretch out in the light draws on the idea of “one in many or many in one”. Using poetry and phrases as her framing device, the artist creates a starting point for visitors’ interaction with ten handcrafted books. Much like the surrealist technique of the exquisite corpse, participants enter the books from any point, continue a poem or drawing started by another and leave their own trace on the pages. Transforming the books into a collective platform for subjective responses, visitors create a body of work with many beginnings and endings. Stretch out in the light references the dynamic manner in which memory is stored and accessed across multiple people in the oral tradition. On a similar note, through pressed, stretched, and creased material, Ever Lasting Day challenges fixity in spatial organization.

Alluding to the potential for memories to transcend to an eternal realm, Embedded Memory and Memory Yokes refer to memories that last forever, such as family recipes passed on over generations. Composed of parts of a musical wind instrument, Embedded Memory arouses deep-seated memories of playing the sculpture. However, through voids in its re-constituted form, the artist simultaneously acknowledges losses in transmission over time. Butail arrives at the notion of impermanence in an observation of transient moments of the in-between in her video piece, Untitled. However, she re-evaluates the inherent ephemerality of changing forms, such as the transformation of pine logs to paper, as a progressive transition from old to new, like souls taking new births.

In Unborn I and Unborn II, voids are not merely spaces of loss but vessels holding a potentiality for something “in the making,” yet to come into being. Spatial voids within the warp and weft of unfurled muslin fabric are viewed as breathable spaces awaiting inhabitation. Intrigued by the notion of inhabiting, the artist observes that the word vastr, meaning clothing in Sanskrit, arises from the word vaas, which means to reside or dwell. For Butail, clothing becomes a means of “casting oneself within” or “wearing oneself”; an articulation of the embodied void.

Butail’s Manifested Ratios performs as a philosophical meditation on time. The framed swatches of blue in Broadened Sky slows down the viewer, “as if reading a book word by word,” to encourage contemplation on the passage of time and its cyclical nature. A sense of the eternal is highlighted in Broadened Sky and Memory Yokes. Simultaneously, ephemerality and slippages in time are suggested in the video Untitled and sculpture Embedded Memory. These notions give way to the pine logs and paper installation in which the idea of regeneration as an aspirational process of transformation is expressed. Manifest objects such as Unborn I and Unborn II, embody within them a potential un-manifest that is always already in existence. Markedly exemplified in Stretch out in the light, and Ever Lasting Day, Butail’s art objects interpret movement in time and memory as not necessarily a linear forward march or reflective look back at the past, but, in a manner similar to the oral tradition, a dynamic back and forth movement between past, present and future, accessible through multifarious points in time and space.

© Copyright Astha Butail