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Elsewhere and nowhere

The changing definitions of belonging in contemporary culture and the politics of space is the central theme of ‘Which Sky do Birds Fly’, an exhibition at Latitude 28 in New Delhi. Co-curated by writer and photographer Saloni Jaiswal as well as museologist and art critic Manan Shah, the exhibition features the works of 11 artists. “Working from different vantage points, the artists represent alternative histories that inform our current sense of belonging, the contestations over space, bodies and territoriality, interrogating and resisting the hegemonic narratives that become the mediatised source of knowledge for the individual,” says Shah.

Meenakshi Nihalani’s works are based on the post-colonial construct of the ecosystem and the communities especially affected by it. Her recent series is based on the postcolonial landscape of an agrarian country narrated by indigo farming, a part of the colonial system. Her practice includes drawing-based and handstitched textile installations and sculptural forms, using wood, glass, textile and bricks as mediums. “My medium and language through this collaboration cite the perception of the show and its expansion towards conveying the sensitive subjects being dealt with bravely to record our identity and relationship to our existing ecosystem. The personal memories and instability invoked through these works are based on acceptance and progress,” says Nihalani.

Dola Shikder’s practice questions the notion of identity and the inner conflicts arising from growing up in a comparatively orthodox society and living in an era of AI evolution. She reflects on themes such as identity, desire, appearance, anxiety, fear, acceptance, manipulation and the male gaze. Her works are created through blurry effects that transform through rich and translucent textures. “My works explore the complexity of the idea of belonging in a very biological way, in the context of cultural and political identity,” informs Shikder. Her series of paintings, ‘Does Our Body Know We Don’t Live in Caves Anymore’, uses a variety of materials including rice paper, butter paper, natural pigments, clay and gold. In her other untitled series, she portrays images of female representations in history and popular culture, using layers of transparent clothes and printed images.

Goa-based artist and filmmaker Ipshita Maitra’s practice incorporates photography, film, printmaking and mixed-media collages. Interested in nature and psychology, history and folklore, she attempts to capture the passing of time, while asking questions of identity and belonging, loss and memory. Through self-willed isolation for the past seven years, Maitra has been experimenting with various analogue and historic processes of photographic printmaking. “For a while, I have been exploring notions of home, nostalgia, memory, time and space — the changing relationships with landscape both inner and outer through my practice. My works ‘Once was Home’, ‘Lost Addresses’ and ‘Silence is the Loudest Sound’ remark on several aspects of inner homelessness that settles in the wake of urban development,” says Maitra.

Kutch-based Deena Pindoria’s practice is informed by years of research, documentation and experimentation in Ajrakh block printing and natural dyes, earth pigments, handmade papers and impressions on rice papers. She focuses on the tradition, patterns and historical events of war and related images. In her current work, an anti-war series, she found and collected an archive of old photographs of women who played an active role in the 1971 Indo-Pak war.

“As our world transforms and diversifies, the artists’ perspectives beckon us to question the evolving definitions of belonging, the geopolitics of territories, and the very fabric of our interconnected existence,” explains Bhavna Kakar, Founder-Director, Latitude 28. Chennai-based contemporary artist Poorvi Sultania navigates emotions, memories and the concept of home through the mediums of drawing, mark-making and painting. Priyanka D’Souza’s primary areas of research and inspiration are Mughal court miniatures, natural history in early modern Europe and marine ecology. Visual artist and artist educator Salman B Baba’s body of works is a response to the projection of Kashmiri subjecthood and landscape.

For Baroda-based visual artist Satyanarayana Gavara, food is the site where all the conflicts of society and culture are played upon. Born into a family of tenant farmers, hunger is an experienced reality for Gavara. His works — large-scale woodcuts with multiple layers of colours — depict food in all possible combinations and variations, reflecting on the struggle to attain food and sustain life. Inspired by his day-to-day observations, Vadodara-based artist Utpal Prajapati’s works are a mixture of chaos and stillness. The images in his collages derive from various sources, like newspapers, magazines, social media platforms, history and movies.

“It is essential for us to revisit written and oral history from a contemporary lens informed by the awareness of plurality of vantage points of recording and dissemination of knowledge and by a multicultural sensibility of a global digital citizen. In that process, we will be able to have a better understanding of multiple kinds of belonging informed by social, cultural, political and ecological consciousness,” says Jaiswal.

The exhibition concludes today.

(Published 14 October 2023, 23:24 IST)

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