The Promissory Maze

The model for belonging in urban circumstances in India is an ever changing one. The old assurances governed by the static code of identity hence, fail to explain many occurrences and their articulations. This is as much visible in the life world and its articulations through the visual and artistic projects of the younger generation of its artists. There was a time when spatiality as a tag used to be imposed upon even the urban contemporary art from India, despite its attempted worldings- now, as the world spreads itself out in its flat simulation, the medium seems to suffice for articulation, it carries the message.

Today it is said that time, because of the  acceleration symptomatic of  the present, snaps so close on your heals that it creates an excess of what is described by Marc Auge¢ as ‘non-spaces’- the spaces that are not inhabited, spaces without temporalities. The new ethnographers like Auge¢, thus, call this predicament of the new culture of excessive traffic and creation of non-spaces the predicament of ‘super modernity¢.

There are spaces still that are marked by values and memories, spaces that are intimate and memorial, they are social, and in the changing urban environment of India there is an entanglement and even clash between the two.

The artists who are interested in addressing the issues of these changing terrain address them via a continuing disjuncture, simulating the clash and cohabitation of the complex weave that makes up their location- governing them as a whole towards a future whose path can only be charted and visualized via the simulators, the mesh, the grid, the ceaseless unmanned electronic screen.

Thus, any critical possibility thereof could be a critique of this belonging and longing, registering occasionally the traces of the moments that capture a transition, only cases where a time trap can be visualized.

This conflicting belonging always lends itself to the paradigm of grid, it is the grid that makes and unmakes, and informs the artistic articulations, and together with the desires this forms a paradoxical maze, a game in which there is only proliferation of means, paths, stoppages, ceaseless innovations and projections.

This experiential maze, at its moments of change thus could become a productive way of thinking of the emergent themes from urban locations in India.

While this exhortation does not cancel out many other possible conduits, forms of articulations and directions, this seems to me one of the possible ways of thinking through the conceptual and idiomatic changes in current the Indian artistic scene.

The line up of artists in this show, attend to the dynamics of changes visible on the horizon while attempting to rearrange their available tools of senses and language.

Pooja Iranna builds up a locational metaphor of distance and closeness and organically integrates the two into patterns, in morphing her vision, She does it by  manoeuvering and accentuating the aspect of touch in the works she crafts with her hands and also with the lenses as she photographs and  recreates photos of the abandoned and rarely noticed spaces.


Her photographic endeavours do not seem instrumental in the creation of her painted images; they mutually inform each other and form a referential spread.  She builds up a poetics of space with focuses shifting between the details, like worn-out stairs, abandoned spaces in the city, perforated concrete screens. One of her photographic works shows the interior of an abandoned house whose floors are worn out in the foreground, plaster peeling off the walls, and a distant window at the end of the hallway opening onto a lit and busy street- with a suggestion of life and a possible future. Or one might recount in another work, dusty blinds or even  canon balls in the furnace . All these images could have had a neutral, distant and documentary visage had there not been a manoeuver to arrive at a sense of touch enhancement or, had she not chosen the yellow to amber color-transition to accentuate the ambience.

There have been engagements in addressing the new urbanization myth of the newly-found developmental process and the wearisome asymmetries that it leaves behind. Pratul Dash’s concerns generally are multifaceted, which are linked with the anomalies of human conditions, the visible contrasts in the urban environment where the artist lives.

The large part of his recent output focuses on the vertiginous effects that the vortex of growth offers to us in the city and the dizzying speed with which such proud heights are reached. His critiques start from this elementary underside of a projectile called ‘building for the future’.

Dash builds up a barrenness comparable to deserts, reminiscent of a possible future that could pervade the entire earth, a future resulting from environmental damages. Pratul’s exercise here is co-terminus with the videos he makes; they share a common gesture of critical belonging. He takes a close look at the perspectival articulations as they appear in architects’ works, so as to communicate from a different position.

Gigi Scaria, over the years has reached out to give multiple directions to his primary thoughts, most of which are around urban scenarios in their experiential reaches. He can easily switch between mediums, he moves from video to painting, to architectural sculptures, or sculptural installations.

His engagements comprise of some of the simplest possible reality checks; as was with his Gandhi project wherein he undertook to find people presently alive, who had witnessed Gandhi in their lifetimes. This of course gets dense and complex when he approaches the sub terrains of culture, mapping the urban detritus. Here Gigi offers us a series of works referring to the façades of culture that we have to offer ourselves. In a developing economy like India these may be the objects of conspicuous consumption and objects of desire, like a house or a mobile phone; at times these two could be structurally confusing and shared units.

 His works act like hollowed façades of a theater set, fragile and transportable surfaces. Gigi’s remarkable restraint from the aesthetic lure are seen in his monochromatic and almost disenchanted renderings, in both the painted facades and sculptural  handling of his horse. In a maverick act, he takes the horse to photograph it in different locations, and titles the works – someone left a horse on the shore. The photographic visuals, as alluring as their constructed counterparts, would perhaps set the ball rolling for another narrative of contemporaneity; the Trojan horse aspect of vertical growth.

Murali Cheeroth builds his ideas around the concept of a mesh, the mesh that helps rebuild a human anatomy in a medico- artistic chamber, or within the reaches of a monitor- the simulacrum at large.

Murali encounters the urban image, via the simulacra of infinite copies, of layers of blithe longings and layers that accrue as traces upon the surface of memory. He refigures the mnemonic images or images that haven’t yet formed, that is simulacra, and constantly repeats the differences to drive home a point, the point of absolute illusions.

The major recurring motif in his simulacra is that of a sports person crossing a hurdle, or a man sleeping with his hands folded, and images floating by. There are engaged ironies in his visual order: In one of his  visuals , the sportsman crosses  hurdles of  building instruments, and measuring machines; the scale is brought in as a secondary measurement- as in machines to men.

The second visual exposes the dream world of a working class man, with the remnants of activities that enclose him as well as the dreams that may release him. The Herons fly past the upright cranes in a virtual building site that is lit by the neon flickers wheezing past.

Murali, thus works out an allegory of labour and leisure, with an indefinite goal, an unfinished itinerary via the simulacra of a building site, that helps him situate himself in an urban circumstance, as in a continuous striving.

In the imagination of the contemporaneity there are possibilities in the pre figuration of the simulatory mechanisms, like a digital document containing biological traces has to go through the protocol, a contemporary ritual.

Biju Jose has followed a long path to arrive at the architecture of the organic; firstly, by experimenting with organic materials and their suggestive potentials, then with objects signifying a double edge, by tweaking the ready-mades and likes and also by building funny suggestive objects with wires.

These new works of Biju seem to stem from an ironic reflection on the relation of the inner and the outer structures. Epithelial cells that form the skin in a human body provided him with structure for the series. He has produced a play horizon between the confines of the cell structures and their imaginary genetic coding, which would then relieve onto a baroque sky.

They form a set in the overall simulacra of the project! The particularity of an epithelial cell is as particular as specific to an eye as the inner structuring of organic processes would be to the eye. Biju expands that to a celestial or, quasi metaphysical level, where the sky as a coded daisy lamp frame would suggest a church, a genetically coded structure and a  simulacrum for heaven at the same time, confusing our viewing horizon.

Dileep Sharma’s works are quite literally engaged in fabulating a relation with the muses; in what looks like the present day divas from the fashion world. They engage in an imaginary correspondence with  what he constructs as a surrogate self – Kunwarji- who shares a part of the predicament of his muses, of being a hybrid.


Earlier, his attempts were to build up a supplement via the medieval poetics and via the visual-takes on the contemporary suburban kitsch in an attempt to overlap and diffuse the border between the two.

As a result a certain fusion emerges in his thought. In the two current works,  two traditional looking figures emerge, they become complementary because of what accumulates on them. In case of the contemporary looking urban character, like Kunwarji, a cohabitation of tradition and contemporaneity, noticeable in most of India, is made visible. The tattoos bear out the signature of the past as a graft. While the muse, in the painting titled Jolie, portraying of his muses is decked by stamped signatures of the popular visual sources - the objects of desire from the fashion ads and consumer culture in general.

T.M. Aziz’s reflections on the available visuals of public world are derived out of photographs, and journalistically, they hang loose in our mnemonic image-bank as images where recognition mattered,

Hence, if they were to be recognized by the same codes that we recognize images in the public world by, the close-ups that Aziz produces, there would be disturbances in the process of recognition,

Babu Eshwar Prasad offers us a vista of an encounter that crosses borders of offered visuality and into the suggested ‘real’ world! He designs a space that is offered for encounters of the impossible; they are a way of reaching the familiar via what is considered unfamiliar. He prepares you as a viewer for the virtual theatre of the double, where not you, but some other self- emulator would work on behalf of you in deciphering the meanings.

In the work Jumping Saddle, the horse, the saddle, the pictures on the wall- all add on to suggest that the dimensions of meaning are broken into and are becoming a site of contestation for the claims to the real.

Prasanta Sahu has of late worked on the effects of close-ups and built up a genre of puzzling surfaces that make up the human body. This concern with a close viewing comes to be considered along with the skin aspect that also forms the basis of digital simulation.

Here, his works take a different turn, a turn towards staging and pointing at oneself. To stage, even masquerade as a victim of persecution, is to get implicated in the general economy of injustice.  In one of the paintings tiled  ‘convict’ the figure , identified as a self portrait , a faceless convict is the site of inhabited content, pronounced or doubled up in the document the headless figure holds up , which pronounces the reason for being convicted as ‘ leading a peaceful life’.

Thereafter follows a pointer, pointing at the bloodied site maps, opening up a circuitous logic of violence. Doubled up from self onto the site, mapping one onto the other, or, mapping Other selves.

In the current ensemble thus, the situational logic comes full circle- from sites of memory via the non spaces, to the simulated environments- to the subjects in question- to a notional implication of the maker into the scene of making, and covers the vista of unfinished dialogues between the present, past anterior and offers a critique of the possible future. A future that is an intermixture of the possibilities of cohabitation, erasure and clashes between the spaces, memories and current belongings…


The Promissory Maze