Sreshta Rit Premnath: Grave/Grove
Sreshta Rit Premnath uses sculpture, photography, video, and painting to explore the possibilities and limits of political agency. Borrowing from the strategies of Minimalism and Conceptualism — 20th century art movements known for simplicity of form and primacy of the idea — he works with natural, and industrial materials to create environments that highlight the inequities faced by migrants, refugees, and other marginalized groups.
For his solo exhibition at the CAC, Premnath explores how shared spaces of growth and care, such as community gardens or nurseries, can be embedded within dehumanizing spaces of collective discipline and confinement, such as detention centers or refugee camps. Weeds sourced from communities around the museum grow between sheets of aluminum cut to resemble unfolded cardboard boxes. Above these, suspended figurative sculptures hang in pairs, submitting to gravity as they lean on each other for support. Drawing from his own experience as an immigrant to the United States and an advocate for the rights of asylum seekers and incarcerated individuals, Premnath employs weeds as an allegory for the complex relationship that so-called outsiders have to the land they occupy. “The condition of being different — ‘other’ — becomes a radical precondition for political possibility.” Premnath writes, “The very bodies that do not count — that are dead to the social process — hold the key to reanimate the social.”
The exhibition is curated by Amara Antilla, Senior Curator at the Contemporary Arts Center. It is co-organized by the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati and the MIT List Visual Arts Center, where a solo exhibition by Premnath curated by Natalie Bell is on view from October 22, 2021 to February 13, 2022. The accompanying publication, a special edition of the artist’s journal, Shifter 25: Waiting, is co-produced by the CAC and the List Center and follows from a series of public discussions convened by Shifter and co-hosted the CAC and the List Center last year.