I’m trying to figure out why I’m so taken aback by Dayanita Singh’s book FILE ROOM (Steidl, 2013), a photo-book of archives and their custodians across India. The obvious reason is of course the unexpected beauty of her project, the wonderful compositions, the secretive content, the elegant layout – But there is definitively more to be said: because there is this unspoken emotional stuff here, not usually understood as joy or pleasure, there are these alarming feelings murmuring from within …
… sadness, fear, anxiety?
But what is there to be afraid of?
In the kingdom of files, the battle is not between good and evil, but between order and chaos
– Aveek Sen
Is this what’s threatening me – my own fear of chaos? My fear of loosing control?
At the heart of a working archive is a great impossibility – a doomed attempt at mapping the chaos of life itself. A living archive continually pushes the art of memory to its limits – the limits of what all the memory in the world can rescue from disorder and chaos.
– Aveek Sen
I must admit, I find it incredible inspiring that I can get in touch with my own darker self via peculiar images of Indian archives. Isn’t it just very strange how art speaks through and across nations, time and distance? How it can communicate (what I boldly will allow myself to call) some kind of universal humanity?
And wouldn’t you also agree – there is something truly Kafkaesque in these images?