ACTS OF APPEARANCE
August 26 – September 1, 2019
Gauri Gill’s photographic series Acts of Appearance is a contemporary take on an annual tradition in Maharashtra, near India’s west coast. Every year, members of the Kokha tribe create and don papier-mâché masks in a procession called Bahora. These masks usually embody demons, divine creatures or gods and goddesses from epics such as the Ramayana, and wearers believe they are inhabited by the spirits of the mythic figures.
In Gauri Gill’s spin on the ritual, the Delhi-based photographer commissioned a group of 20 locals to create masks based on village life under the mentorship of Indigenous Bahora mask makers. By capturing each maker performing everyday tasks wearing the mask, the artist creates images that are at once farcical and dreamlike. For example, Gill depicts a doctor treating his patient wearing an elephant mask, a convenience store worker weighing fruit with a cobra head and three men play boardgames as horses with mischievous grins.
Despite their absurdity, each work holds a stillness. Often tethered by rich afternoon light and earthen tones, the photographs evoke the surreal possibilities of daily business and project the rich interior of each figure. Exactly one year after its showing at MoMA PS1 in New York, the spectacular suite of photographs Acts of Appearance travels to Sydney for a week long pop-up exhibition at Sydney Opera House.