Dayanita Singh Museum of Chance 2013

Multiple narratives unfold across the images in Singh’s Museum of Chance. If we follow the beckoning spiral staircase in one picture, where might we arrive? Perhaps in a room filled with dusty and mysterious wrapped bundles. What is that silhouetted figure watching from the window? Perhaps the crowd gathering in the spotlit courtyard below.

The more than 160 photographs that make up Museum of Chance, shot by the artist over many years, are brought together within moveable hand-built teak panels that allow the images to be shifted and resequenced each time they are shown. These structures, which can be folded to create an enclosed space or unfolded into open wings, are accompanied by a table and stools as well as smaller boxes that can be hung on surrounding walls to present constellations of pictures.

Singh developed the large-scale, multi-image format that she calls a “museum” after many years of contemplating the parameters of photography as a medium and its intricate and integral relationship to the ways images are disseminated. By presenting her photographs not in a fixed sequence, as in the pages of a book (a format the artist has also explored), but in flexible sculptural structures, Singh allows them to take on multiple—and evolving—relationships with one another. Museum of Chance is a dynamic construction: at once an archive, a collection, and an ever-changing display.

Publication excerpt from From MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019).

In 2013, Singh developed her “museum” form: hinged, foldable wooden structures that combine the functions of display, archiving, and storage. The individual photographs can be arranged and rearranged within the structures, which she has referred to as “photo-architecture,” or hung directly on adjacent walls in the accompanying wooden boxes. In each new sequence, relationships develop across the images, whether through association or through serendipity, and narratives emerge. The connecting thread of the work is chance. Including over 160 images spanning three decades of Singh’s career, the work poses virtually infinite possibilities for presentation and storytelling, suggesting that photography is not only about taking images but also, perhaps more profoundly, about editing them.

Gallery label from 2019
Medium
162 pigmented inkjet prints and teak structures
Dimensions
Variable dimensions
Credit
Acquired with support from The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art, The Modern Women's Fund, and Committee on Photography Fund
Object number
494.2017
Copyright
© 2019 Dayanita Singh. Courtesy of the Frith Street Gallery, London
Department
Photography

Installation views

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