Rina Banerjee title graphic

Banerjee’s work often focuses on the migration of cultures, which has been likened in ultranationalistic discourse to the spreading of disease. While her art contains echoes of the displacement that resulted from India’s history of colonialism, independence, partition, and religious strife, Banerjee also explores the reception of diasporic people—migrants and refugees—when they move to new, frequently unwelcoming places.

In breathless confinement she wooed an uncertain danger, lit a candle to angeress, a blessed wilderness, a tropical justice, she came to her enacted jungli joy, a letting drew droppings, seeds and leaked solitudes whispers, awoke twice like no other, not like him but like all the others joined a sprawling universe, 2018

Kumkum, turmeric, Indian blouse gauze, fake fingernails and eyelashes, foam, feathers, fabric, Spanish moss, light bulbs, wax, quilting pins, plastic tubing, latex and rubber gloves, acrylic and dry pigment, cowrie shells, gourd, horn, urchins, silk, bone, barnacle, marble beads, gold leaf, faux fur, lace, coral 

Courtesy of Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris/Brussels

Banerjee’s works often reflect how anti-immigrant rhetoric compares mass migration to the spreading of disease. In breathless confinement captures the fear of the foreigner as a viral invader, here symbolized by the grotesque figure in the center and by medical tubing branching out across the wall like rivers or human arteries. The metaphor has a new relevance at this time, with the dislocation of thousands spurred by the pathologies of war, famine, crime, and poverty, and the global pandemic.


She is An Uncertain, 2007

Ink and acrylic on Mylar 

Tanja and David Smith, Düsseldorf, Germany

Banerjee drew She is An Uncertain directly onto schematic plans for air ducts and electrical conduits at Columbia Center for Disease Control, in New York City. The plans were in a dumpster near her studio. For her, the diagrams do not simply represent mechanical systems for controlling airborne infection. They are allegories for today’s widespread anxiety regarding contamination and containment. The ghoulish figure spewing an unnaturally green body fluid embodies contagion.


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