Shubigi Rao “These Petrified Paths” at Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai

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Can storytelling from the margins lead to recollection of a nation’s shared identity? Who decides what knowledge is worth preserving when it comes to transmitting it? What are fossil-fuel extractionivism and energy supply related to lost archives and books. These are among the questions that drive artist and writer Shubigi Rao‘s first solo exhibition in China: “These Petrified Paths.“

Known for her ten-year projects that manifest in film, books, drawing, photographs, etchings, and installations with discarded items and archives, Shubigi Rao considers both present-day and historical subjects, offering alternate viewpoints on contemporary displacement—be it of peoples, languages, cultures, or realms of knowledge. Her work offers a witty, incisive critique of the western knowledge system and the problematic narrative about civilizations.

This exhibition at the Rockbund Art Museum in Shanghai unfolds in four galleries; each refers to a specific term that echoes recurrently in Rao’s oeuvre: the “subterranean,“ the “sacred space,“ the “margins,“ and the “action.“ She has created phylogenetic “trees of knowledge” in the form of a large, three dimensional energy pylon, 12 meters in height, punctuating the heart of the exhibition. The term “phylogenic tree” refers to an illustrated diagram that shows the genetic descent of a common ancestor.

The gallery space is a network of transmission lines, which include knowledge, energy and story-telling. By highlighting obscured transmissions of knowledge, memories, and experiences, These Petrified Paths is a call to action to celebrate different forms of knowledge and to learn, From the marginsHow to evolve from destruction, loss, death and entropy.

Also at the nexus These Petrified Paths is a newly commissioned feature-length film of the same titleFilmed during the outbreaks of war in Armenia in September 2022, and in the spring 2023. These Petrified Paths weaves tales and recollections of local communities into an enthralling narrative interlaced with memory, written and spoken word, dialogue, terrain, and everyday existence. It poetically delves into Armenia‘s enduring cultural relics, battles, and fragmented literary richness under duress. As Armenia struggles to recover from the conflict, the custodians reveal more than just books. Women are emerging as librarians who chronicle pivotal moments and conservators. These subtle stories, often hidden behind the scenes, reveal the monumental efforts of restoration specialists, guides, translators and archivists in times of crisis.

The following are some of the most effective ways to improve your own effectiveness. Rockbund Art Museum Shanghai
Until February 25, 2024

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