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we are opposite like that

'we are opposite like that' is a series of ongoing interdisciplinary works incorporating video, performance, poetry, music, and dance from material gathered during the artist's research in the Arctic and Antarctic circles, and comprising fictional mythologies for the poles. Singh Soin situates us in these regions to explore urgent questions about the environment, history and myth.

Since mistakes in measurements, mirages, fog and ice prevented the discovery of these uninhabited places– in particular, Svalbard was not discovered until 1596 and Deception island until 1820– neither place has any indigenous community and therefore no pre-existing myths and legends. 'we are opposite like that' seeks to create fictional myths for the two poles from the non-human perspective of a melting fossil that has witnessed the great shifts of epoch: the ice.

The London and Delhi-based artist works across text, performance and moving image, using the natural environment as a metaphor for speculative cosmologies, revealing entanglements between human and non-human life.


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we are opposite like that

Himali Singh Soin
October 2019 – Ongoing

Himali Singh Soin, winner of the Frieze Artist Award 2019, presents a multidisciplinary work exploring the environment, history and myth co-commissioned by Forma for Frieze London 2019.

'we are opposite like that' is a series of ongoing interdisciplinary works incorporating video, performance, poetry, music, and dance from material gathered during the artist's research in the Arctic and Antarctic circles, and comprising fictional mythologies for the poles. Singh Soin situates us in these regions to explore urgent questions about the environment, history and myth.

Since mistakes in measurements, mirages, fog and ice prevented the discovery of these uninhabited places– in particular, Svalbard was not discovered until 1596 and Deception island until 1820– neither place has any indigenous community and therefore no pre-existing myths and legends. 'we are opposite like that' seeks to create fictional myths for the two poles from the non-human perspective of a melting fossil that has witnessed the great shifts of epoch: the ice.

The London and Delhi-based artist works across text, performance and moving image, using the natural environment as a metaphor for speculative cosmologies, revealing entanglements between human and non-human life.

  • Frieze Artist Award

    Curated by Diana Campbell Betancourt, the Frieze Artist Award is a major opportunity for an emerging international artist to present an ambitious work at Frieze Art Fair. For the first time, the Award will focus on the medium of film and is co-commissioned by Frieze, Forma and Channel 4 Random Acts. It is further co-produced by Frieze and Forma and supported by Arts Council England.

    Past Events

    Release
    The work will be premiered at Frieze London 2019 from 3-6 October before screening at select venues in the UK and beyond. Channel 4 Random Acts will also broadcast the film on Channel 4 and online this autumn.

    Live Performance
    Wednesday, 6 October 2021 6-9pm
    Thursday, 7 October 2021 6-9pm

    Exhibition
    8–15 October 2021 11-5pm


'we are opposite like that' Film, 2019

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Himali Singh Soin’s film ‘we are opposite like that’, winner of the Frieze Artist Award 2019, was co-commissioned by Forma for Frieze London 2019. Exploring environment, history and myth, the film pairs poetry and archival material to recount the Victorian anxiety of an imminent glacial epoch. The disorienting fear of an invasive periphery sent shudders through the colonial enterprise, the tremors of which can be felt in contemporary times. Here, an alien figure traverses the blank, oblivious whiteness, and undergoes an Ovidian transformation into glimmering ice. Inspired by field recordings, an original score for string quartet creates an etheric soundscape of hissing glaciers and the hard timbre of the wind, interspersed with melodic fragments of Victorian composer, Edward Elgar’s ‘The Snow’. ‘we are opposite like that’ beckons the ghosts hidden in landscapes and turns them into echoes, listening in on the resonances of potential futures.

The film has been shown internationally, often accompanied by performance elements that Himali has developed with other collaborators.

Live Performance at FormaHQ, Oct 2021


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A live score performance of Himali Singh Soin’s 'we are opposite like that' played by the Ice Quartet.

Pairing poetry and archival material, this track recounts the tale of the omnipresent anxiety in Victorian England of an imminent glacial epoch. The disorienting fear of an invasive periphery sent shudders through the colonial enterprise, the tremors of which can be felt in contemporary times. An alien figure traverses the blank, oblivious whiteness, and undergoes an Ovidian transformation into glimmering ice.

Score + percussion by David Soin Tappeser
The Ice Quartet:
Berfy on 1st Violin
Alice Barron on 2nd Violin
Marsailidh Groat on Viola
Roxanna Albayati on Cello

Digital Release The event coincides with the release of we are opposite like that - the record, available to download via Taku Roku, Cafe Oto’s in-house label. A physical copy of the vinyl will be released later this year and will soon be available to pre-order.

Download the Digital Release

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Touring

we are opposite like that has been shown in numerous venues and as part of several exhibitions and programmes, as it continues to grow as an interdisciplinary body of work.

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Images from a performance at Concrete at Alserkal Av. Curated by Block Universe, In collaboration with David Soin Tappeser and Shyamant Behal. January 2020

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Image from Hypertopia, group exhibition at STATE Studio, Berlin, 2020. Image by Eike Walkenhorst

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Screening of we are opposite like that at Focal Point Gallery as part of To Dream Effectively. Image by Anna Lukala

'we are opposite like that' Book, 2020

Forma is pleased to present Himali Singh Soin's new artist book, made with the support of India Foundation for the Arts and gathering the ongoing research that constantly informs 'we are opposite like that'.

Singh Soin describes the publication as 'an almanac, a messy collection of missing paraphernalia from archives, false philosophies, unreliable observations from the ship, love letters, ekphrastic poems, astrological readings, made-up maps, theories, recipes and small resistances'.

A beautifully tactile book, with offset lithography print, canvas cover, hand-sewn and wax sealed. The publication includes a bookmark made of silver space blanket.

Buy the book

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​Sound Installation, 2020

A week-long display opened alongside the concerts at FormaHQ, including a new large-scale fabric work and sound installations at Peveril Gardens.

CHAPTER 1: SUBCONTINENTMENT
Listen here

Subcontinentment is a manifesto that stems from my fieldwork in the polar circles, where I was confronted with my alienness as a brown body in a landscape commonly used for outer-space simulation experiments. As part of a series of fictional ice archives, south asian futurism, renamed subcontinentment, anti-chronicles the geopoetic links between the poles and the subcontinent. In transforming the text into a soundscape, we began finding correspondences and intersections between my polar recordings and the hyper, denuded aural environment of Delhi under lockdown. Cawing crows, a static in the ether of the polyphonous city, are intertwined with screeching skuas, lone reminders of life in the expansive nothingness of the ‘white’ continent. The whirr of a fan points to the circulation of air, capital, contagion, compassion. The extra-terrestrial echoes of stones skimming on frozen lakes sound like firecrackers, blackening the air with their celebratory overzealousness. گھنگرو‎, ghungroos, the metallic ankle bells of the temple-dancer-by-day, sex-worker-by-night, or ice in a frozen river. The pressure of stretching the word, ‘rest’ builds, it is released as if sounds of government-mandated clangings of pots and pans could avert a pandemic, substitute a virus for a communal agenda. The piece follows the rhizomatic root structures of melting, frozen lilypads. Lilypads that open at dawn and close at dusk just like the Na'at, poetry sung in praise of Allah, heard in the depths of a tomb.

CHAPTER 2: ANTARCTICA WAS A QUEER RAVE BEFORE IT GOT BUSTED BY COLONIAL WHITE FARTS
Listen here

Antarctica was a queer rave… traces the history of conjecture and how the existence of Antarctica was hypothesized. It recounts, in a non-linear fashion, the Western imagination of the savage underworld, an imagination largely based on projection and fear. It turns this same imagination into a utopian desire: a place not populated by horrific freaks with malformed bodies and exquisite tentacles, but free from the normative conditioning of convention and straightness, free from the grids of the map as it dissolves into mists and fog. The music is analogue and recorded rogue, an acoustic rendering of EDM and 1990s rave beats. By recording single-track, on an acoustic drum set, David Soin Tappeser subverts, emulates, and pays homage to contemporary queer party culture.

CHAPTER 3: LADY ANTIGUA
Listen here

Lady Antigua starts at the bow of the boat. Lying in the net, I couldn’t help noticing the bust of a black woman pinned to it. The poem is a fictional biography of her life, pointing to the imagination of black culture in the binaries of slavery and fetishism. And it began to reflect my own complicated displacement and confusion being a brown body in the polar tundra. We made this piece while the world was out on the streets chanting: Black Lives Matter. The pipe organ harks back to early hymns sung in the church, an institution of control and the force behind European colonial expansion, with the repetitive chord structure representing the repetition of history. The Hammond organ that follows was a portable, inexpensive instrument that led to the empowerment of small communities by placing faith and worship in individual hands. The free improvisation is this desire and celebration for freedom.

Mountain, pixelated in the water, 2021 is a new tapestry of the sound of ice crystals smashing into each other, and the various histories of south asians, freaks, and exotic others at the poles.The silk-cotton tapestry is woven in an Ikat weave, one that is traditional but embodies the glitchy, digital nature of alien sightings at the poles. The color combination invokes the colonial histories of indigo, the peaceful resistance of Gandhian cotton and ahimsa (non-violent) silk and the clay color of terracotta and belonging.

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About the artist

Himali Singh Soin is a writer and artist based between London and Delhi. She uses metaphors from outer space and the natural environment to construct imaginary cosmologies of interferences, entanglements, deep voids, debris, leakages, alienation, distance and intimacy. In doing this, she thinks through ecological loss, and the loss of home, seeking shelter somewhere in the healing power of performance and the radicality of love. Her speculations are performed in audio-visual, immersive environments.

Soin's art has been shown at Khoj (Delhi), Somerset House, Mimosa House, Serpentine Gallery (London), Gropius Bau or the HKW (Berlin), Migros Museum (Zurich), Anchorage museum (Alaska) and the next Shanghai Biennale. She is part of the curatorial team of Momenta Biennale 2021 in Montréal. Soin is currently Writer-in-Residence at the Whitechapel Gallery in London, and was the recipient of the Frieze Artist Award last year.

Selected Press

• 'Artists have to be good citizens': Himali Singh Soin on Brexit, climate change and the alien other (The Art Newspaper review, 3 October 2019)
• Himali Singh Soin: Winner of the 2019 Frieze Artist Award (Frieze review, 10 July19)
• Himali Singh Soin wins 2019 Frieze Artist Award (Art Forum review, 10 July 2019)
• The Artist Creating a New Mythology for the North Pole (The New York Times review, July 2019)
• Himali Singh Soin interview: 'I think beauty can change the world' (The Evening Standard interview, 23 September 2019)
• Can the arts help save the planet? (The Financial Times feature, 26 September 2019)
• What to see at Frieze 2019: the artists and galleries not to miss (Harpar's Bazaar listing, 26 September 2019)
• Dhaka Art Summit 2020: Bangladeshi artists shine at the event’s third edition (Clove Magazine, 19 February 2020)
• Himali Singh Soin's Planetary Practice (Ocula, 10 February 2020)

Himali Singh Soin, ‘we are opposite like that’ (2019). Video still. Image courtesy the artist.

Image courtesy Forma Arts & Media. Photography by Katarzyna Perlak.