Times of Oman
Indian artist captures culture shift in work
Muscat-based artist Debjani Bhardwaj’s paper, light and sound installation called ‘Shadow of the Wind’ is attracting people
MUSCAT: Tucked away in a small, dark room in Bait Muzna Gallery is an homage to India’s past and traditions that are quickly slipping away.
The paper, light and sound installation called “Shadow of the Wind” is by Muscat-based Indian artist Debjani Bhardwaj, whose work reflects her nostalgia for aspects of Indian life that are disappearing fast. “It could relate to any county, but it’s based on my experience. At the same time world over human engagement is deteriorating. People are more on their own,” Debjani says.
Two large black rectangles with images of circus animals and performers, children playing with old-fashioned toys, hand-pulled rickshaws, and military musicians cut out of them hang from the ceiling.
The cutouts have been replaced with coloured tissue paper and strings of lights within the hollow rectangles light up the images. On one wall the cutouts and other black silhouettes hang in horizontal rows, moving slightly and casting changing shadows on the wall.
In the background, sounds play evoking memories that accompany the paper work. Debjani spent time in India recording the sounds including the band at a wedding, a circus, the sound of a skipping rope hitting the ground, the wheels of a rickshaw on a street.
The changes she has documented in her work include the transition from locally made toys like skipping ropes and kites to video games, rickshaws to cars or mass transportation, wedding bands to DJs, and circuses to cinemas. She says these have caused a loss of jobs and human interaction.
“When you’re going in a rickshaw you’d have the communication with them. It’s not that it’s gone but it’s disappearing. It’s basically human engagement that I’m talking about,” Debjani explains.
Debjani says the changes to society aren’t necessary a bad thing, but she laments the human and social interactions that are eroding due to technology. She wanted to capture the changes in a momentary way, which is why she used light and translucent paper, and cutouts that move and shift.
“All the elements are very ephemeral, lights and shadows. Even memories are fleeting, fugitive, fragmentary. Even sound transports you back to a particular place but it’s not something physical,” she notes.
Debjani hopes people who visit the installation will take time to reflect on the changing society around them, and appreciate what used to be. “Shadow of the Wind” will be on display until June 17 at Bait Muzna Gallery in Old Muscat.