Since 2012, Kawita Vatanajyankur has produced silent videos in which she deploys her body to perform manual tasks that are normally accomplished using tools or other objects. In The Basket, from the series “Tools,” she tosses herself over and over again into a basket, like dirty laundry; in The Scale, from the series “Work,” her inverted body acts as a scale for chunks of falling watermelon; in Dye, from the series “Performing Textiles,” her head serves as a hook to repeatedly submerge white yarn in a tub of dye.
Despite their brightly colored backdrops, Vatanajyankur’s absurd performances have dark undertones: her arduous acts of endurance, repeated on endless loops, dramatize work typically performed by women outside public view and to little acclaim, in spaces ranging from homes to textile factories. By pushing beyond her own physical limits to ridiculous ends, Vatanajyankur creates indelible images of the paradoxes of twenty-first-century labor: it is possible to be powerless but powerful, unequal but equal, and repressed but irrepressible.
Kawita Vatanajyankur: Foul Play is the largest museum exhibition of the artist’s work in the United States to date and features eight videos by the artist, running concurrently on separate monitors.