Binod Shrestha's 'Remnants & Rumination' at MAEP

Nine Steps by Binod Shrestha
Nine Steps by Binod Shrestha

Binod Shrestha's "Remnants & Rumination," now on view in the MAEP Galleries at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, is a harrowing, heart-stopping reflection on violence and the aftermath of war. Shrestha witnessed first hand the Nepalese Civil War as the monarchy was overthrown and a People's Republic was established. He came to the United States in 2002, and recently completed a research project that involved returning to Nepal and conducting interviews with survivors. The work displayed in the show is violent, symbolic, and a passionate expression of the trauma incurred by the people who experience a country at war. 

My Stories are Your Stories by Binod Shrestha
My Stories are Your Stories by Binod Shrestha

At the center of the gallery room is Portrait of Yudishtir, an installation composed of four house-like structures made of wood covered in deep-red fabric. The pieces stand on plaster replications of human hands (which are modeled from the artist's own hands) on a bed of cedar mulch. The insides of two of these rectangular structures with triangular rooftops, are lined with plaster human thumbs. 

A third structure houses two plaster human heads, one looking upward and another looking downward, attached by an overly long tongue. The fourth structure contains a mass of tubing. A possible interpretation of the installation could be that the eventual institutional and governmental structure of Nepal -- or any power that takes control -- is built on the bodies and death of those who were killed in the power struggle. The double-headed tongue image could suggest the restriction on free speech on which such a power infringes. 

Portrait for Yudishtir by Binod Shrestha
Portrait for Yudishtir by Binod Shrestha

Sanctum: Home similarly contains a house structure, this time black, and carries inside of it an accumulation of threads that look like human hair. They're almost hidden, suggesting the individuality and culture that survives no matter the circumstances. 

The installation Nine Steps consists of a great many earthenware pots that have been smashed and contorted. They sit together on a bed of salt, providing another symbolic statement of the destruction and decay -- not just of people, but of culture -- that war leaves behind. 

Detail from My Stories are Your Stories by Binod Shrestha
Detail from My Stories are Your Stories by Binod Shrestha
The most powerful piece in the exhibition is My Stories are Your Stories, where five plaster heads, each positioned upside down with open mouths, are lined up in a row. Each one plays a video, viewed through the mouth. While it's unfortunate that no subtitles were provided for the interviews with Nepalese citizens, their voices and emotions, seen through the artwork, have a gravity on their own. 

Shrestha's "Remnants & Rumination" is really quite a shocking and emotional series of artworks to experience. It provides an opportunity to find out a little about Nepal's recent history, and makes a powerful statement about the ramifications of war and violence. It runs through December 30, 2012 at the MIA. 
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Minneapolis Institute of Art

2400 Third Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55404


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