07.-21.02, H-A-L-F-A-M-A-N, AOTU, Beijing, CN

Jagrut Raval & Wolfgang Obermair

Opening: 07 Feb 2015, 5pm


“The reason is that the whole-part relation itself is deficient, ‘untrue’ inasmuch as its concept and reality do not correspond. The concept of the whole is to contain; but if the whole is taken and made to be what its concept implies, i.e., a whole in contrast to its parts, then it is divided, then it ceases to be a whole” (Hegel, Philosophy of Right)

The exhibition of Indian artist Jagrut Raval and German artist Wolfgang Obermair targets the basic meaning of the term “sharing”. The German word ‘teilen’ (to put somthing in parts) and the Hindi word ‘Bhaag’ (a portion of the whole) – expresses both ‘share’ and ‘divide’. The ambilance in the word ‘Sharing’ connotes many meanings that touches upon social, military and geopolitical dimensions. A latent potential of aggression and frustration is ascribed to that term – it also depicts a ‘Loss’. To share something means to destroy the whole.

Jagrut Raval and Wolfgang Obermair are currently artists-in-residents at Red Gate Gallery, Beijjng.


The installative setting made of a fragile tent-pole construction forms the framework for two narratives that manifest an object and five cyanotypes. Both address the problem of the “locked room mystery”. The locked room is a literary topos based on the paradox of a closed system. In it an action occurs that to all appearances would have been impossible in this way as it is reliant on an external impetus. The solution to the riddle is always an unusual one and usually exceeds the limits of customary logic. The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841) by Edgar Allan Poe is one of the earliest examples of this theme. The horrific murders of two women could only happen because an orang-utan gained access to the room through a supposedly closed window. Imitating the action of his master, whom he had observed using his cutthroat razor, he cut the first woman’s head off and strangled the second with his hands, then to violently shove her up the chimney. One of the most famous illustrations of this story was by the British illustrator Aubrey Beardsley. In his 1894 drawing not only is the closed nature of the room manifest, but also the shuddering of a whole society in the face of the removal of the boundary between human and animal under the influence of Darwin’s theories. At the end of the 19th century the closed room and the fascination with the bestial stand for the dominating scientific tendencies of this age, Darwinism and positivism.The second narrative within the installation relates to a report of a contemporary experience of a German art-transport company who was recently jailed in a Chinese prison: “Each prisoner receives soap and a toothbrush, which has been shortened by half so that you cannot use it as a weapon.”Whatever the reason for this practice, which is also widespread in other prisons, the breaking of an object that stands like no other for one’s own care and intimacy leads to a change in the habitual perception of reality in a precarious and hermetic situation. In the whole installation all five fingers of a hand are integrated in terms of a “drame surréaliste” (G. Apollinaire). The segmented hand is not just a superordinate construction principle but also indicates a mysterious action. What remains is the opening of the lock.

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