“Everything is Part of Itself:” Meronymy, the Flâneuristic Gaze, and the Polyphonic Imagination of Rameshwar Broota
—Maya Kóvskaya, PhD
The power of the recent photography of Rameshwar Broota lies in the way his images open up new spaces for imagination about the body, the built environment, and our human to the natural world through what is called a “polyphonic” visual language. This polyphony—a harmonious symphony of different possible understandings of the work—is produced by the technique of “defamiliarization of the familiar” through juxtapositions in which the human subject is constituted in an indexical relationship to the various contexts presented. What this means is that the possibility for multiple meanings of the signs mobilized in Broota’s work (often images from the natural world, the built environment, humanly made objects or human life) are possible because of the way he manages to disrupt our familiar optics, by switching the background or the frame that makes us look again, and think again about what we are seeing. In doing so, he opens up the possibilities for re-vision—for re-thinking, re-seeing and re-knowing ourselves and our world.
Even when human being appears to be absent from the tableau, the human's absent presence is still felt and exerted through the distinctive flâneuristic gaze of Broota's lens. Like the way of seeing the world that made the “flâneur” of 19th century literature an icon of seemingly paradoxical detachment in the context of well-traveled cosmopolitanism, and worldly experience, characteristic of modernity, Broota’s camera facilitates a similar disengaged engagement in our own gazes.
This diverse body of work is unified by a practice that utilizes ephemeral juxtapositions of the natural/organic/bodily to the constructed/inorganic/mechanistic in order to rupture these very binaries. And it is precisely this set of shifting binaries that gives voice to the polyphonic visual discourse that characterizes Broota's practice across genre and subject matter. In some works, the body is iconically treated as terrain, while in others, the terrain, or landscape (both the built and the natural, and sometimes an amalgamation of the two) is animated by the cosmopolitan, urbane gaze of the well-traveled flâneur who becomes part of the very landscape his gaze constructs. In some works, photographic interventions recast the body as part of a larger mechanism or machine, in others the possibilities of the self seem to be both framed and delimited by geometric space.