Artist Vibha Galhotra’s work looks at the environment with “motherly concern”, she says
It’s no coincidence that a book of Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek’s jokes lies on the table in artist Vibha Galhotra’s Delhi flat. One of the jokes in it offers a pretty good explanation of Galhotra’s work: when an East German goes to Siberia for work, he tells his friends that to get past the censor he’ll use a simple code—everything in blue ink will be true, and anything in red ink will be false. “Everything is wonderful here. Stores are full, food is abundant, apartments are large and properly heated, movie theatres show films from the West, there are many beautiful girls ready for an affair,” his first letter reads. “The only thing unavailable is red ink.”
Known for her environmental concerns, Galhotra thinks of her art as that missing red ink. “I look at the environment with a motherly concern. And, of course, you have felt the gender bias. You know it stops you from many things, but you break the wheel,” she says.
She picked up the threads for her upcoming work—to be showcased in New York at the Jack Shainman Gallery next year—from the research of various space agencies, especially NASA’s quest to find water beyond Earth. “They are selling one-way ticket to Mars,” she says. “Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, claims [we will] inhabit Mars by 2024. His proposal for a ‘spacefaring civilisation, with a multiplanetary species’ hints toward a new scary form of colonisation.”
Simultaneously, Galhotra’s also working on ‘Food for Thought’, a public participatory performance that revolves around the theme of panchabhuta or the five elements (water, air, fire, air and ether). But don’t expect pretty things, she says.
For her recent work as part of the ‘Facing India’ exhibition at Germany’s Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, she imagined a future Anthropocene, where viewers confronted the damage humanity has wrought upon the environment.