No Joke

India Today - - LEISURE - —Chinki Sinha

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.

YASIR IQBAL

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