Connecting the dots: Bindis in Bharti Kher’s work

May 30, 2018

Bharti Kher: Movements is a tool designed by DHC/ART Education to encourage visitors to develop and elaborate on some key concepts of the exhibition Bharti Kher: Points de départ, points qui lient.

Composition: Bindi

The bindi is both a material and motif at the heart of Bharti Kher’s practice. Our reflections on the composition of her works are freely inspired by the title of the exhibition as well as by the invitation extended to the body and mind’s movements, a notion that grounds this pedagogical tool. Ideas and quotes are presented as a series of starting points that the reader is invited to read, re-read or undo, in drawing or collage.

The word “bindi” comes from the Sanskrit word bindu meaning point. [1]

“The bindi is usually applied to the forehead between the eyebrows, an area that in the yogic sciences is considered to be of immense power, commonly referred to as the third eye.” [2]

The term bindu appears in the Nasadiya Sukta, or Creation Hymn, evoking the point of origin of the world. [7]

Once a trace left from applying pigment to the forehead, the bindi has become an object for purchase: one can buy sheets of bindis in a range of colours in many stores throughout India and elsewhere. These are the bindis used by Kher. In this context, the history of the bindi intersects with that of mass-produced merchandise.

To create a readymade, an artist selects a pre-existing object, which they can modify or not, to make a work of art. The concept, developed by Marcel Duchamp at the beginning of the 20th century, invites us to reflect on the importance (or lack thereof) of production and authorship in aesthetic judgment.

Do you think the bindis used by Kher are a material or readymades? Where do you situate the difference between these two types of objects?

After seeing a woman wearing a bindi in the shape of a sperm, Kher went to the store where the woman had acquired it and bought out their stock. [4] Since then, this type of bindi covers many of Kher’s sculptures, including An absence of assignable cause.

Curator Ziba Ardalan suggests that the bindi sperm is “symbolic of every single living creature on the planet, along with our vices and virtues, our existence, ideas, ambitions, and destiny.” [5]

The works using bindis are made in the artist’s studio in Gurgaon with the help of a team of local assistants. [3]

Bharti Kher, on her use of bindis: “The density of the work is changing now. There is much more layering, much more this idea that they are like codes or languages that you can’t read. You can’t really focus on the image, and your eyes are constantly shifting, moving forwards and then back.” [6]

Both Cipher placed on our building’s facade on St-Sacrement St., and Virus IX bring to mind Jasper Johns’s or Kenneth Noland’s targets, Claude Tousignant’s gongs, or Nadia Myre’s Meditations.

Op Art is based on the visual effects experienced through the juxtaposition of geometric shapes. At times Kher’s works, in their visual rhythm, evoke the optical effects of this art historical movement.

Linger over one of the bindi works in the exhibition. Observe its surface, the motifs that emerge. After taking some time to look at the work, try to describe the visual effects you notice.

Daniel Fiset
DHC/ART Education

[1] JHAVERI, Shanay (2010). “Conditions of Possibility: Bharti Kher’s Use of the Bindi.” Matter. Exhibition catalogue (Vancouver Art Gallery, July 9 to October 6, 2010). Vancouver/London: Vancouver Art Gallery/Black Dog Publications, p. 11.
[2] Ibid.
[3] NG, Elaine W. (2008). “Where I Work. Bharti Kher.” ArtAsiaPacific. Online. Consulted April 3, 2018.
[4] TRIPATHI, Natasha (2017). “Bharti Kher’s Bindis Mirror The Starry Night.” Sotheby’s. Online. Consulted April 3, 2018.
[5] ARDALAN, Ziba (2012). “Second Skin That Speaks of Truth.” Bharti Kher. Exhibition catalogue (Parasol Unit, September 14 – November 11, 2012). London: Parasol Unit, p. 16.
[6] SEN, Aveek (2012). “Fragments of a Conversation with Bharti Kher.” Bharti Kher. Exhibition catalogue (Parasol Unit, September 14 – November 11, 2012). London: Parasol Unit, p. 62.
[7] KRISHNANANDA, Swami (2018). “The Development of Religious Consciousness.” Swami Krishnananda. Online. Consulted April 3, 2018.

Photo credit: Bharti Kher, Heroides VII (détail), 2016.