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Paranoid Picnic at NAE

22 January 19 words: Caroline Barry

Paranoid Picnic: The Phantom BAME is a solo exhibition from Hardeep Pandhal taking place at the New Art Exchange from the 19th of January to the 17th of March. This is an exhibition of two halves, with one half in the NAE and the other taking place in Primary. We got trusty Caroline down to check it out...

I went along to the opening at New Art Exchange to see the first half of a ‘parodic parallel world’ and just what it entails…

I’ve always enjoyed exhibitions at New Art Exchange. The exhibition space celebrates culturally diverse art with well-chosen and curated shows. Not to mention, hosting events, workshops and talks. It is, in an industry where straight white men are often celebrated as frequently, a breath of fresh air to see new, exciting art from a wide variety of artists. In full disclosure, I realised far too late that this is an exhibition in two spaces and have therefore not seen the video on display in Primary yet. My bad!

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with the exhibition opening on Friday. As I rounded the corner into the main exhibition room, I was greeted with a huge wooden sculpture of a man bent over splaying his bum cheeks open (This is the first time I’ve written that sentence in anything I’ve ever written) with the words ‘world music’ written above the hole where his, erm, hole is.

Hardeep Pandhal confronts the idea of post-colonial trauma with humour. The giant wooden structures remind me of the photo booths where you pop your head through a hole in the painted wooden and become the head of a character. Just like the Victorian era seaside amusements.  

Art shouldn’t always have a barrier between the viewer and the piece.

The humour is immediately obvious in the series of sketches and structure that dot along the ground floor. It took us a while and a few laps before we could interact with the art by taking photos of our faces in the art or touching the wool. I love an exhibition where you can interact with the artworks. Art shouldn’t always have a barrier between the viewer and the piece.

The standout piece for me was the giant knitted hoody that stands to the left of the room.  Knitted by Pandhal’s mother, it was embroidered by the artist who added stitches here and there that pulled the wool into surreal proportions.  The hoody symbolises the division between artist and mother as Pandhal speaks little Punjabi and she speaks little English, yet they can communicate without sharing a language.

If I had one small criticism of the exhibition it is that I would have loved to see more. There was a section towards the end of the exhibition that I felt could have housed one more piece. However, I am not in any way a curator and have a tendency towards preferring a packed approach which doesn’t always suit exhibitions.

In the end, Paranoid Picnic is a fantastically colourful, playful and thought-provoking exhibition that encourages the viewer to confront their own ideas of racism, belonging, post-colonial trauma and societal structures. I for one, am here for it.

More details about the exhibition available on the New Art Exchange's website

You can see Paranoid Picnic until March 17th, 2019. 

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