From January 10th to February 9th, ARTISANS’ was honoured to launch artist and photographer Dayanita Singh’s new book ‘Zakir Hussain Maquette,’ published by Steidl Verlag.
As a student photographer, Dayanita Singh travelled during six winters, in the Eighties, with the musician, Zakir Hussain, and his peers, photographing them for a publication design project that became her first book in 1986. In the light of her later books, this early work shows how bringing together word and image - sequencing photographs with accompanying text into a book - had been her natural tendency from the very beginning of her life as an artist. It also shows how the art of musical elaboration – how music tells, or resists telling, a story - became integral to her own methods of visual narration from this early stage.
The book is well known as Dayanita Singh’s primary medium, one she explores to create new relationships between photography, publishing, the exhibition and the museum. But where did her passion for the book as the ideal vessel for her photos, for the stories she tells, begin? The answer lies in Zakir Hussain, a handmade maquette Singh crafted in 1986 as her first project as a graphic design student. The protagonist of Singh’s photo essay is the Indian classical tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, whom she captured on the stage and at home with his family. Surrounding the photos are handwritten texts gleaned from interviews Singh made with her sitters, including insights from Hussain:
“I will always be a musician. A musician will always be a musician, not just me. He may stop performing but the musician is still there.”
This Steidl facsimile edition is scanned from Singh’s original maquette and reproduces all its “imperfections” and idiosyncrasies including her penciled notes about the book’s construction - indications of the influential bookmaker to come. Shanay Jhaveri’s accompanying essay discusses how Singh came to “make” the original, referring to her student notes and exploring how she intuitively assembled the book, from editing the images to design, setting the ground for the book objects and photo architectures of her later practice.
About Dayanita Singh
Dayanita Singh was born in New Delhi in 1961 and studied at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad and the International Center of Photography in New York. Singh’s exhibitions include those at the MOMA in New York (2019), Serpentine Gallery in London, Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin, the Hayward Gallery in London (2013), the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum für Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt (2014). In 2013 Singh represented Germany at the Venice Biennale. Bookmaking is central to her practice. Singh’s books with Steidl include Privacy (2004), Go Away Closer (2007), Sent a Letter (2008), Dream Villa (2010), File Room (2013), Museum of Chance (2014) and Museum Bhavan, Book of the Year at the 2017 Paris Photo–Aperture Foundation Photobook Awards.