Solo Exhibition

»Dancing with my Camera«

Dayanita Singh

Curated by Stephanie Rosenthal, Director of the Gropius Bau

The Gropius Bau is pleased to present »Dancing with my Camera«, the first major survey of the internationally renowned artist Dayanita Singh.

This exhibition showcases the work of Dayanita Singh, an artist redefining what photography can be today. Beginning in the 1980s, she has pioneered a genre-defying approach to photography, one that pushes the limits of the medium and the boundaries of how we experience images. Singh liberates the photo from the wall, and the book from the bookshelf, to create unique forms of display and dissemination. For the first time, we will be able to see all of Singh’s works together and understand how her photographs ask for, and find, time and again, a new form.

For Dayanita Singh, the labour of photography lies not in the making of images but in conceptualising the forms within which they can grow. She challenges us to envision new, more mobile, accessible and fluid forms of exhibitions and museums. Her works traverse genres, forms and spaces – from mobile museums to book-objects, to books that become exhibitions themselves.

»Dancing with my Camera« presents the key works of Singh’s oeuvre: starting with I am as I am (1999) and Go Away Closer (2007), to her most recent projects, Let’s See (2021), Museum of Dance (Mother Loves to Dance) (2021), Museum of Tanpura (2021), Mona Montages (2021) and Painted Photos (2021–2022) that will be shown for the first time ever at the Gropius Bau.

For Singh, photography is the raw material, rather than an end in itself. Over forty years, she has built a vast archive of images that she has mined especially for this exhibition. Her images are activated in relation to the unique forms that she creates for them. In »Dancing with my Camera«, Singh takes us on a journey by way of an ongoing chorus of images. Along the way, we meet friends and acquaintances whom she has photographed over decades in formal and intimate spaces, within family homes and bureaucratic archives, and dancing in green rooms or cemeteries.

After looking through an archive of four decades, I realised it barely matters what I photographed and how I photographed. What matters is that I photographed and photographed relentlessly, often the same places, people, year after year, decade after decade. That is the work.”
— Dayanita Singh

The survey charts the artist’s early encounter with her mentor, the tabla maestro Ustad Zakir Hussain, which precipitated her becoming an artist and led to her first book, Zakir Hussain: A Photo Essay (1986) while she was still a student. Displayed on the walls of the exhibition is the book Zakir Hussain Maquette (2019). Hussain is also one of the protagonists of the Museum of Tanpura (2021).

Several works are devoted to Mona Ahmed, a transgender individual and Singh’s closest friend who died in 2017, with whom she made the now classic book Myself Mona Ahmed (2001). This exhibition includes the new Mona Montages (2021) in which Singh manually cuts and pastes images of Mona into her Privacy, File Room and Masterji series. We also hear Mona reciting Urdu poetry in the video-work Mona Shayari (2013/2021).

One of Singh’s key inventions are her “museums”, which mark an important turning point in her practice and led to Museum Bhavan (2013): a travelling family of nine “museums”. Each museum holds a collection of old and new images drawn from the artist’s photographic oeuvre encased in mobile wooden structures. The museums are built to allow for quick changes in their images and to transform the space in which they are installed. They combine display and storage, and compel viewers to engage with their bodies as they dance around the constructions to experience the images. This is what Singh terms “photo-architecture”.

The Museum of Chance (2013) is the “mother museum” of the several museums presented. In its large wooden structures, viewers can see its 163 photographs. Across the hall, the same photographs transform into the Suitcase Museum (2015) that holds within it 44 Museum of Chance book-objects. In the same room, the photographs also take the form of one of the nine accordion fold books in the Museum Bhavan box (2017). In this way, Singh’s work moves in ongoing circles between the forms that she invents. The domestic space of Museum of Shedding (2016) was built so that the artist herself could live inside it. It includes a bed and a desk as well as a visitor’s bench. The Architecture Pillars are constructed of modular cubes that can be rearranged endlessly and packed flat for ease of transport.

The retrospective also brings together Singh’s fascination with personal and institutional archives – through classic works such as File Museum (2012), File Room Bookcase (2014), Time Measures (2016) and Kochi Box (2016). She is equally obsessed with her own archive, which exists primarily in analogue contact sheets. Singh works with these sheets to continuously re-examine her archive. Through this process she generates new works such as Let’s See (2021) which has an entirely new form that draws from the contact sheet.

The human touch, dancing, movement and music as well as encounters with people, objects and media emerge as recurring leitmotifs in Singh’s images, as they pass through continents and geographies. Completed for the Gropius Bau exhibition, Singh’s Museum of Dance (Mother Loves to Dance) (2021) results from the artist’s fascination with movement, and features a typology of images of dancers. The 108 images establish what can be described as a kinship of figures that have appeared in her work – from Mona, dancing on the streets and in the cemetery where she finally lived and is now buried, to Singh’s mother dancing during family weddings, to some of the greatest Classical Indian dancers and Bollywood choreographers.

Singh’s new forms free photography not only from time and space, but also from being bound to the wall. Her structures – museums, pillars, ladders, to name just a few – activate not only her images but also our bodies. She touches our senses by directing our movements while looking at images, which are subtle, intimate, familiar and at the same time not familiar at all. Singh’s work contributed a cornerstone of the Gropius Bau’s programming, focussed on ways of sharing common ground. The human touch, dancing, movement and music are central to Singh’s book-objects, photo-architectures and museums. Singh shows us how we are interconnected through the movement of bodies, information and images.”
— Stephanie Rosenthal, Director of the Gropius Bau and the exhibition’s curator

»Dancing with my Camera« pays special attention to Singh’s book-objects, an essential component of her oeuvre: for Singh, the published book is not a supplement to the exhibition, but an exhibition in itself – subject to a continuous practice of transfiguration, and accessible to anyone to take home with them. By doing so, she invites people to become the curators of her work in their homes. Singh believes image making is a very small part of photography and the strength of the medium is in the power of dissemination. This is why she often calls herself an “offset artist”. Singh has published 13 books so far, and has recast our understanding of her books by giving them a more important role than even her exhibition prints. Most of her works are first conceived in the form of a book. Many of these books, originally published with Steidl as trade editions, are now shown in their book-object form in the exhibition.

My medium is photography. I twist it and turn it, I wrestle with it – until the form reveals itself to me. That is my work as an artist. To excavate the potentials photography is pregnant with.”
— Dayanita Singh

This exhibition brings together for the first time all the different forms that Singh has created in conversation with photographs she has made over four decades. It demonstrates how she expands our notions of photography to crucially include the concept of form.

»Dancing with my Camera« is curated by Stephanie Rosenthal, Director of the Gropius Bau.

»Dancing with my Camera« is accompanied by an extensive catalogue with scholarly essays, published by Hatje Cantz. The exhibition will tour to the Museum Villa Stuck, Munich; Musée d’Art Moderne Grand-Duc Jean – Mudam, Luxembourg; Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art, Porto.

Dayanita Singh

Dayanita Singh was born 1961 in New Delhi, India. She studied Visual Communication at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad and Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at the International Center of Photography in New York. Recent solo exhibitions include: Dayanita Singh: Pothi Khana, Minneapolis Institute of Art (2021); Museum Bhavan, Tokyo Photographic Art Museum (2017); Collection Display: Go Away Closer, Tate Modern, London (2017); Suitcase Museum, Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai (2016); Museum of Machines: Photographs, Projections, Volumes, Fondazione MAST, Bologna (2016); Conversation Chambers Museum Bhavan, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Delhi (2015); Dayanita Singh, Art Institute of Chicago (2014); and Go Away Closer, Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, London (2013).
Singh lives and works in New Delhi.

Framework program

Feel free to sign up for PiB’s free, weekly E-Newsletter if you’re interested in accompanying events for this exhibition!

Saturday, March 19, 2022, 3 – 4 pm
Talk »Book Building: Dayanita Singh and Gerhard Steidl«
Dancing with my Camera pays special attention to Singh’s book-objects, an essential component of her oeuvre: for Singh, the published book is not a supplement to the exhibition, but an exhibition in itself – subject to a continuous practice of transfiguration, and accessible to anyone to take home with them. By doing so, she invites people to become the curators of her work in their homes. Singh believes image making is a very small part of photography and the strength of the medium is in the power of dissemination. This is why she often calls herself an “offset artist”. Singh has published 13 books so far. Most of her works are first conceived in the form of a book. Many of these books, originally published with Steidl as trade editions, are now shown in their book-object form in the exhibition.
The conversation with publisher Gerhard Steidl and author Monte Peckham is about this changed understanding of the medium of the book for photography.
The talk will be held in English. Admission free. The 3G rule applies.
To participate, please send an email to To participate, please send an email to ed.ua1664752215bsuip1664752215org@s1664752215tneve1664752215
Details

Saturday, March 19, 2022, 5 – 6:30 pm
Artist Talk »Ongoing Conversations: Dayanita Singh and Stephanie Rosenthal«
The exhibition »Dancing with my Camera« showcases the work of Dayanita Singh, an artist redefining what photography can be today. Beginning in the 1980s, she has pioneered a genre-defying approach to photography, one that pushes the limits of the medium and the boundaries of how we experience images. On the occasion of the opening of her solo exhibition, the artist will talk to Stephanie Rosenthal (Director of the Gropius Bau) about her first major work show at the Gropius Bau.
The talk will be held in English. Admission free. The 3G rule applies.
To participate, please send an email to To participate, please send an email to ed.ua1664752215bsuip1664752215org@s1664752215tneve1664752215
Details

Sunday, March 20 + April 3, 2022, each 2 – 5 pm
Workshop »JuGroBa × Dayanita Singh: Dancing with my Camera«
What happens when you dance with a camera? This two-part workshop explores the current exhibition Dayanita Singh: Dancing with my Camera. We will learn about her approach to photography and exhibiting and create our own photo-displays.
Held in German. 15 to 20 years. Free admission, please register in advance via instagram.com/jungergropiusbau by direct message.
Details

Sunday, Apr 10 + May 8 + June 5 + July 3 + July 17, 2022, each 2 pm
»Art Explorations«
Overview Tour of current exhibitions at the Gropius Bau.
Held in English.
Details

March 27 + Apr 24/29/30 + May 1/8/22 + June 19, 2022, each 2 pm
»Streifzüge (Art Explorations)«
Overview Tour of current exhibitions at the Gropius Bau.
Held in German.
Details

Further events of the public programme will be published here in time.

Mar 18 — Aug 7, 2022
+ Framework program: please see above

Niederkirchnerstraße 7, 10963 Berlin
[District: Kreuzberg | Borough: Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg]

Opening hours: Wed – Mon 10 am – 7 pm, Tue closed

Admission: 15 € / reduced 10 € | Online Ticket

+++ Please pay attention to the current Corona regulations of the respective gallery/institution. +++ Bitte beachten Sie die aktuellen Corona-Bestimmungen der jeweiligen Galerie/Institution.

The exhibition Dayanita Singh »Dancing with my Camera« at the Gropius Bau is featured on the cover of the PiB Guide Nº41 MAR/APR 2022, PiB’s bi-monthly published exhibition guide for Berlin’s versatile photography scene. Order your copy today in PiB’s shop and discover further exhibition recommendations for those two months!

Current photography exhibitions/events recommended in…
Berlin

PiB’s current print issue
PiB Guide Nº44
SEP/OCT 2022

#pibguide

Discover great photography exhibitions/events in Berlin in PiB’s bi-monthly print issue, the PiB Guide! The PiB Guide Nº44 SEP/OCT 2022 has been published as a booklet, A6 format · 40 pages · English & German · worldwide shipping.

Order your copy
Become a part of PiB’s next print issue!
Present your photography exhibition (or event, photobook, magazine, etc.) to PiB’s international audience of photography enthusiasts!
The print deadline for the PiB Guide Nº45 NOV/DEC 2022 is Thu, October 20, 2022.
For additional infos please refer to PiB’s media kit, and feel free to get in touch for the current advertisement rates.
Note: PiB Online-Features are possible anytime – the print deadline does not apply in that case.

PiB’s E-Newsletter

Sign up for PiB’s free Email-Newsletter and stay up-to-date in Berlin’s photography scene! Assembled with love once a week in English & German for an international audience of photography enthusiasts, collectors, curators and journalists.

Newsletter Sign-up
PiB's Weekly E-Newsletter
PiB's Weekly E-Newsletter

You & PiB

Reach a dedicated audience of art & photography enthusiasts in Berlin & beyond – by presenting your exhibition/event or institution/product/service with PiB!

Read more
#Tags for this article:
Search