Posthis­toric Art

India Today - - LEISURE - —Phal­guni De­sai

An up­ended ribcage bring­ing to mind an an­i­mal grave­yard and as­so­ci­ated ideas of death, de­com­po­si­tion and rebirth cur­rently stands in front of a stuffed In­dian rhi­noc­eros in the nat­u­ral his­tory sec­tion of Mumbai’s Ch­ha­tra­p­ati Shivaji Ma­haraj Vastu San­gra­ha­laya (CSMVS).

Ti­tled ‘Co­coon’, it’s the opener to Kolkata-based artist Jayashree Chakravart­y’s Earth as Haven: Un­der the Canopy of Love, now show­ing at the Je­hangir Ni­chol­son Gallery in the East Wing of the mu­seum. Cu­rated by Roobina Kar­ode and pre­sented in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Ki­ran Nadar Mu­seum of Art, Delhi, and Akar Prakar, Kolkata, the show il­lus­trates Chakravart­y’s fo­cus on the re­la­tion­ship be­tween man and nat­u­ral spa­ces, and the re­lent­less changes hu­man progress and ‘devel­op­ment’ have made to the planet and our idea of na­ture.

“Jayashree re­minds us that the earth is con­tin­u­ously be­ing pushed to­wards a pre­car­i­ous edge,” says Kar­ode, not­ing that the artist has wit­nessed the rapid ur­ban­i­sa­tion of Kolkata’s Salt Lake City (Bid­han

Na­gar), which de­stroyed the city’s wet­lands and re­sulted in a loss of bio­di­ver­sity.

With scrolls, in­stal­la­tions and can­vases, the ex­hi­bi­tion points to a grow­ing im­bal­ance be­tween spa­ces held by man and na­ture.

Chakravart­y il­lus­trates the fact that hu­mans are tak­ing up more and more space through in­sects—vi­tal to the ecosys­tem, though many of us look upon them with re­vul­sion. In ‘Co­coon’ (2010-11), she mag­ni­fies the spa­ces these in­sects es­cape to when hu­mans in­vade their ter­ri­tory.

The epony­mous in­stal­la­tion of the show is a struc­ture sus­pended from the ceil­ing. It in­vokes a pre­his­toric cave full of mark­ings; it also has an in­sect’s car­cass, and the tar­pau­lin hut­ment of mi­grant labour to high­light the other side of devel­op­ment. View­ers are in­vited to use one of the ac­com­pa­ny­ing torches to in­ves­ti­gate the belly of the in­stal­la­tion—which is both the in­side of a beastly in­sect and a cave in which a hun­dred tiny crea­tures hide.

Chakravart­y uses nat­u­ral ma­te­rial like leaves, twigs, roots col­lected from the parks and streets. Del­i­cate Nepalese pa­per and other com­mon ob­jects like se­quins cre­ate a sense of won­der that re­flects ques­tions per­tain­ing to the use of land by man. Chakravart­y’s can­vases are from the last decade, which her­alded im­bal­ance in the nat­u­ral world. Ac­com­pa­ny­ing the ex­hi­bi­tion is a short video that pro­vides in­sight into how the work was cre­ated, re­peat­edly and painstak­ingly em­pha­sais­ing the ur­gency with which we must re­con­sider our en­gage­ment with na­ture.

COUR­TESY OF THE JE­HANGIR NI­CHOL­SON ART FOUN­DA­TION, CSMVS

Jayashree Chakravart­y’s works, like the in­stal­la­tion Earth as Heaven(be­low), high­light man’s de­struc­tion of the nat­u­ral world

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