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What it’s like to PLAY BAT

Saturday, November 19, 2016
Bat in Indian ink by Jackie Hinkson. PHOTOS: MARSHA PEARCE

What is it like to be a bat? Philosopher Thomas Nagel asked this question in 1974, in his paper, which argued that there is a subjective quality to conscious experience—that there exists something that it is like “to be” a particular organism.

Using the bat as an example, Nagel notes that it is tough for humans to imagine being a bat. He writes, “Bat sonar, though clearly a form of perception, is not similar in its operation to any sense that we possess, and there is no reason to suppose that it is subjectively like anything we can experience or imagine.”

Yet the traditional Carnival masquerade form of the bat has called on people in T&T for years to push their imaginations to the limit.

The group exhibition titled Bat Show gives audiences a look at the many ways humans can play—portray, enact, perform as—bat. Peter Doig’s new oil washes titled Man Dressed as Bat, reinforce the perspective of a human being beneath the skin of the bat costume. His images are evocative of the poster created in 1970 by designer Henryk Tomaszewski for the short opera Die Fledermaus (The Bat).

They also echo Embah’s 2015 glittery bat sculptures, which are cleverly included in this exhibition— giving audiences an opportunity to see influences and connections between creative practitioners. In one of Doig’s images, the man dressed as bat is bathed in back lighting so that he glows, while in the other image, a rim-lighting effect gives a striking outline to the winged figure.

Both works are powerfully dramatic. If Doig’s pieces emphasise the bat as a theatrical role, works by other artists in the show illustrate precisely how the bat character can be staged.

Jackie Hinkson’s drawings show the tension in the legs and the twist in the spine that occur when the energies of bat, human and the music of the Carnival season intertwine. Adele Todd’s black embroidered bats, set against black fabric, are technical feats.

They capture such details as a leap on one leg coupled with the undulating movement of the bat wings to suggest a creature about to take flight. Ashraph’s bat studies offer beautiful permutations of the way the wind might tug on the wings, giving rise to a range of shapes in space.

The rhythm in Leo Basso’s brush strokes lends a kinetic quality to his depiction of Bats Dancing On the Streets. His pigments come and go on the surface of the board in a manner that invokes the flitter flutter of a bat. Paul Kain’s Ah Come Out to Play and Che Lovelace’s painting, titled simply Bat, express total abandon or rather the effort to relinquish what it is to be a human and move as much as possible toward being a bat.

Although it may not be possible to take on bat consciousness entirely—to know with certainty what it is like for a bat to be a bat—this small but visually robust exhibition shows the sheer delight for humans, and the art, in playing. Bat Show is curated by Ashraph and runs at The Frame Shop, corner of Roberts and Carlos Streets, Woodbrook, until December 3. For more info: Call 628-7508.


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