PHOTOINK is pleased to present Until the End of the World, an exhibition of photographs by Madhuban Mitra & Manas Bhattacharya.
Instead of going out and photographing the world, the artist photographs films as pre-existing representations of the visible world. Re-photographing allows them to freeze, fix (to use a photographic term) and give material form to what was ephemeral, and isolate an image from the continuum of the film. Culled from over 10,000 films, the source images that are locked in their temporal, cultural, and geographical specificities are wrenched out of their original contexts and subjected to a new structure. The images collide and converse, triggering a new form of montage where spaces, temporalities, cultures, languages, and realities are in multifaceted dialogue. The images come from fiction films, documentaries, propaganda, and experimental films, both feature-length and shorts, from every imaginable genre, and span the history of cinema across the world through the 20th century. The work is an extended play with images and language using more than 40 languages from all over the world, including several languages from India. In an ironic twist that further expands and complicates ideas around montage and meaning, the artists surreptitiously insert images that they have made or found, as stills from imaginary or non-existent films, both as a homage to surrealism and a sly allusion to the treacherous realities of cinema history, especially the hundreds of films that are lost, abandoned or aborted, or suddenly rediscovered after decades of being considered lost. There are three kinds of montage operating in the work – between image and text, image and image, and between texts. Offering a media archaeology in practice, the work brings together dramatically different aspect ratios and formats, different color processes, and films played back on TV, tape, and disc that references the infinite traffic of images from one medium to the next, to build a pictorial history of imaging and imagining the world in the 20th century. Instead of making a work about the past, the artists use images and artifacts from the past to reflect on and speculate about our fraught present and uncertain futures.