AS MUCH AS SHE MAY HAVE WANTED TO, Bani Abidi couldn’t be there for the opening of Resemble Reassemble, the exhibition of contemporary Pakistani art on display at the Devi Art Foundation in Gurgaon. In fact, the Delhi-based Pakistani artist could possibly be arrested if she were caught entering the region. Though barely a 40-minute ride from Delhi, Gurgaon is in Haryana, forbidden territory for many like Abidi. Current visa regulations grant her entry into only one state.
But Abidi’s work on display more than compensated for her absence. Perhaps the subject of her installation was rendered more piquant because of the absurdity of her circumstance. The video installation, arranged as the fourth piece of 45 in the show, depicts the diplomatic tension between India and Pakistan as a petty feud between two neighbours. Two television screens broadcast two different versions of what is ostensibly the same piece of news—the theft of a freshly-laid egg—and the presenter on both channels is Abidi herself. One screen has her reading the news in a Pakistani guise, the other Indian.
It is never clear to the viewer whether the Pakistani stole the Indian hen’s egg or the Indian stole the Pakistani’s hen’s egg. We are told the situation is tense but under control and there is talk of returning the egg to its ‘real’ owner. This ingenious, tongue-in-cheek piece of footage exposes not just the biased nature of reportage but also the nonsensical nature of the 60-year-old conflict between the two countries. Most of all, it sets the tone for the rest of the show that is spread over four sections of the gallery.