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A fragile state of mind, body and nature
NIDHI GUPTA  29th Jan 2012

Feet and Crown by Masooma Syed

n the past few years, the world has been in a tumult — economies have crumbled; earthquakes and floods have wreaked havoc. Indians We Indians have been shaken out of our smug countenance, as far as our rise to the super power status is concerned. This undercurrent of vulnerability is what Rakhee Balaram, curator of the ongoing art exhibition at Art Alive Gallery, has sought to explore in expressions of contemporary art and in society.

Titled Fragility, the exhibition features mixed media works by 14 artists, including Jaishri Abichandani, Rina Banerjee, Anita Dube, Pooja Iranna, Susanta Mandal, Yamini Nayar, Manisha Parekh, Srinivasa Prasad, Ashim Purkayastha, Mithu Sen, Om Soorya, Masooma Syed, L.N. Tallur and Sisir Thapa. The exhibition, as Balaram puts it, is about underlining the flipside of the triumph of globalisation and of showing the disparities of development.

"Gurgaon itself is a case in point," she elaborates, "You can see soaring ambitions and aspirations embodied in malls and high-rise buildings, but lack of basic infrastructure such as electricity and good roads are also a regular feature." She hit upon the idea two years ago, on hearing the Prime Minister use the word "fragility" in the context of the economy.

Balaram conceptualised three manifestations of this state of being — air, earth and body, each reflecting the planes of fragility in conceptual, civilisational and corporeal spaces. While a cordoned-off section in the Air chamber with nothing in it symbolises lightness in time and space, another one with mud is a simple representation of Earth, and finally a mirror in the third chamber reflects the Body. The artists' works are divided among these rooms, weaving in the instability of all aspects of life — relationships, growth and urbanisation, of the planet being exploited and so on.

So Dube's Full Moon in October, which is a wire and velvet branch overlooking a mirror, arouses the melancholy of wispy relationships. Syed's Feet and Crown, intricate webs made of hair and nails, and suspended in glass boxes, point to the delicacy of the body itself. L.N. Tallur's Bulimia — an ornate palki or carriage with a decaying piece of wood inside — depicts the continuing flights of material aspirations even as the body and soul decay within. To juxtapose the artistic expressions of fragility, the exhibition also has an archive room, which has news articles featuring the word fragility, reflecting the realities of instability.

What sets this exhibition apart is the materials used in creating the art. "We've deliberately avoided oil or acrylic on canvas, because they have a solidity we do not want to project here," says Balaram. Instead, they've used material from building sites in Gurgaon, such as bricks, fire, wood, naturally ethereal substances such as jute, silk, coir and even hair and nails.

"The exhibition is also positive in a lot of ways — fragility isn't always undesirable. But what we're focussing on are the pressure points that might create ruptures in a seamless doctrine of jubilation, begging a relook at the direction of our lives, personal and collective," says Sunaina Anand, director of the Art Alive Gallery. They offer no solutions to this constant predicament, says Balaram. Instead, the exhibition will raise questions in your mind, and perhaps give you a different perspective on the world.

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