Architectures of Excess by Amba Sayal-Bennett
For Amba Sayal-Bennett’s third solo exhibition with Carbon 12, the artist presents a series of new works. Coinciding with Art Dubai 2023, the exhibition, Architectures of Excess, continues Sayal-Bennett’s exploration of translation, boundaries, and migration.
Sayal-Bennett reimagines architecture, not as a tool to carve up or colonise space, but as an experiment in future imagining. The work has a sci-fi aesthetic – a genre which has long been criticised for its colonial overtones and veneration of imperial adventure, often characterised by stream-lined Modernist architecture to depict its utopian visions of speed and progress. Sayal-Bennett is interested in the notion of the Orient as a place of European invention – the constitutive ‘outside’ of the Occident – a logic which transformed farness as a spatial marker of distance into a property of people and place. In these works, Sayal- Bennett reclaims farness as both a spatial and temporal element, drawing on ornament to create propositional forms directed towards the future. Her formal investigations trace the interconnected and complex relationships between science- fiction, Modernism, and Imperial legacies to present a schematic of resistance, an architecture of excess that enlists excluded and marginalized elements in a project of post-colonial storytelling.
She investigates how abstract methods can be exclusive and create boundaries between what is present, absent, and marginalized. Recently, she has been focusing on the architectural heritage of Modernism, studying how its rational forms migrated to places like Chandigarh in the Punjab, where her maternal grandparents were born. Through translation, she explores how knowledge, bodies, and form move across different locations, a process that is inherent to the diasporic experience. Chandigarh was commissioned by Nehru in 1950 as a purpose-built city of clean lines and concrete surfaces that looked toward the future while distancing itself from the violence of India’s partitioned past. The artist is interested in the failed utopian projects of European Modernism and their problematic role in expressing their ideologies. In this exhibition, she presents a new collection of sculptural pieces that address inheritance issues and propose ways to critically engage with this architecture and its heritage.
Modernism valued function and necessity, and rejected ornamentation as unnecessary. Sayal-Bennett’s mild steel sculptures, created using 3D printing, respond to this exclusion by incorporating flower motifs from Moghul miniatures that overgrow their steel frames. She uses ornamentation, which was repressed by Modernism, as a tool to challenge the rigidity of sanitized geometries. The botanical forms in her sculptures reject the sterile emptiness and ubiquitous whiteness of Modernism, creating space for an encounter between the symbolic order of Modernism and the elements that threaten its stability. In this work, form is not dictated by function, but rather determines the development of the piece. The ornamental motifs become independent and freestanding structures, produced using digital methods that have contributed to a renaissance in ornamentation within contemporary architectural practice.
Amba Sayal-Bennett: Architectures of Excess
Location: Carbon.12, Dubai
Duration: February 28 – May 1 2023