This autumn the Hayward Gallery presents a landmark project in the artistic life of one of today’s foremost photographers, Dayanita Singh. Opening on 8 October, Go Away Closer will be the first major UK retrospective of the artist’s work, investigating and challenging the boundaries and practice of photography as an artistic medium. The exhibition will bring together Singh’s artistic oeuvre from the past decades and major bodies of new work, never shown before.
Internationally acclaimed for her own form of making mass-produced artist’s books, Dayanita Singh takes photography as a starting point, rather than an end in itself. Singh is breaking away from the print-on-the-wall tradition of art photography and uses the idea of the ‘museum’ to develop her own kind of photo-architecture. Creating structures to display as well as to house photographic prints, has fascinated her ever since the making of Sent A Letter in 2007 with Gerhard Steidl; a multi-volume mini-library-cum-exhibition of photo-books in its own slip-case.
Experimenting with book-making has led Singh to create a major new body of work, in which her old and new images can be endlessly displayed, sequenced, edited and archived into ‘museums’ whose design and architecture become integral to the images they hold. These large wooden structures can be placed and opened in different ways, each holding around a hundred images. Her 'museums' will continue to grow, as Singh keeps adding new work.
“Photography is not enough for me,” says Singh, “it is just my language. Unless I can make poetry out of it, or a novel, what good is all my vocabulary?”
In Go Away Closer at the Hayward Gallery, Singh will show her portable ‘museums’ of stories, themes and image-repertoires for the first time. They create spaces of intimate engagement with the images as interconnected bodies of work, rather than single images. Singh’s ‘museums’ bring photography into the realm of not only fiction and poetry, but also of sculpture and architecture.
Alongside these new works, the Hayward gallery will be showing Singh's earlier series Dream Villa, Blue Book, I am as I am, Bombay portraits and the Mona portfolio, as well as the projection Mona and Myself. After photographing her friend, the eunuch Mona Ahmed, over two decades, Singh has distilled the essence of her long engagement with Mona’s life in a new “moving still”, shown at the German Pavilion at the Venice Biennale this year and coming to the Hayward gallery for Go Away Closer.
The exhibition is curated by Dr. Stephanie Rosenthal, Chief Curator, Hayward Gallery.