Rajkamal Kahlon

Double Take. Rajkamal Kahlon. Foto: Emma Haugh
Double Take
Photo: Emma Haugh
Blow Back. Photo: Emma Haugh

Rajkamal Kahlon works with the visual material of colonialism reflecting on the violence created by the aftermath of ‘The War on Terror’. Through the use of anarchist humor and critical aesthetics, her practice emancipates the meaning of texts and images created by regimes of power. While insisting on the centrality of the body in the experience of oppression, her work addresses the act of viewing as both complicit with and preceding the production of violence. Double Take is an ongoing series of water color portraits and altered 19th and 20th century engravings—found in illustrated newspapers, books, ethnographic and studio photography—that interrupt and rewrite the original pedagogical function of European media images representing formerly colonized subjects. The result is a dialogue between past and present imperial images and geo-political ambitions. ‘Blowback’ is a CIA term for the unintended consequences of covert operations against foreign nations and governments. Kahlon borrows the metaphor to explore the uncanny relationship between early anthropological portraiture and acts of political retaliation labeled as terrorism today. The presence of black and brown bodies in Western societies is frequently perceived as threatening. Exaggerating and playing on this fear, Kahlon weaponizes “native” subjects reduced to objects of science in Dutch and German ethnographic archives. Offering new forms of poetic resistance, Kahlon’s works aim restoring the dignity of those people whose haunting and anonymous images are still entangled within European imperial archives.