The net exhibition, which concluded on October 10, created a unifying structure with the Structure as its keystone to handle manifold inequalities
Inked right into a confined house, the inmates are stressed. One appears to be on the verge of making an attempt to tempo about; one other, sharp-featured and masked, sits cross-legged and glares on the artist. Others loom within the background — are these shadows on the wall or males crumbling into bones, with cracked skulls and skull-textured masks? And but, all these are distinct figures nonetheless, human beings stuffed with individuality and nervous vitality. That is not the case after we go on to the second half of Umesh Singh’s outstanding diptych, Escapade — a Journey with the Migrants. By this time they’ve dissolved into an undifferentiated mass of huddled humanity. The partitions have narrowed, and shadows lean towards them with an air of desperation.
Singh, who endured an arduous two months of isolation in Varanasi throughout the lockdown, and was then stuffed right into a collection of crowded buses to return to Bihar, determined to doc the experiences of his fellow travellers, a bunch of migrant labourers and poor college students, by means of his artwork. “The bus had solely 30 seats, however there have been 50 folks. There can be two-three folks below one blanket,” he recollects. The claustrophobia and eventual dehumanisation — dehumanisation within the eyes of, and by, an detached state — in stark black ink evoke ideas of the notorious Black Gap incident of Calcutta or Chittaprosad’s depictions of the Bengal Famine.
‘Spontaneous solidarities’, as epitomised in Singh’s works, was one of many thematic clusters of the exhibition ‘Damaged Foot — Unfolding Inequalities,’ which ran on-line for 3 months earlier than concluding on October 10. Pushed by a necessity to reply to the unfolding migrant labour disaster, when an estimated one crore folks tried to succeed in house on foot between March and June, curators Prabhakar Kamble and Rumi Samadhan reached out to 60 artists and constructed a thematic framework with labour at its coronary heart. The works went up on the market on the Mojarto platform with proceeds going to artists in want.
The curatorial imaginative and prescient was developed alongside plenty of interrelated contours, together with the Structure, with its thought of ‘we, the folks’ and the assorted guarantees of equality; the contributions of B.R. Ambedkar to the labour motion; labour and urbanisation; migration; types of labour; the plight of farmers; the relation between land, folks and ecological points, which ties in with tribal folks and their traditions; and the notion of schooling as emancipation.
The eponymous work, Damaged Foot, a sculpture in wooden by curator Kamble, could be in contrast with Balaji Ponna’s portray, Strolling Below the Empty Sky, during which a cracked slipper bestrides the define of India as innumerable souls with glowing eyes stare accusingly. Each level to the rupture attributable to the good migration, a tear within the social material born of blindness and betrayal. One of many exhibition’s main themes was the connection between labour and the nation, and as we too usually neglect, a nation is nothing however an abstraction of a folks. It’s the nation that has been ruptured.
Photojournalist T. Narayan captured these lockdown journeys in his personal means. One placing picture, taken from behind, exhibits a toddler virtually fused to his father’s neck and shoulders, as if they’re one entity. Venkat Shyam’s portray, The Journey, equally depicts a mom, trying virtually like an Egyptian goddess with a pot for a crown, taking her son by the hand and strolling barefoot, at the same time as a practice and an aeroplane cruise previous. It’s exhausting not to think about the very totally different therapies the federal government meted out to returning NRIs and home-bound labourers.
An Ambedkarite gaze on society is distinguished in lots of the works, and maybe its baldest expression is in Vikrant Bhise’s portray, Ambedkar and a Labourer. A employee cleansing a statue of Ambedkar covers the latter’s eyes — maybe urging him to not gaze, shielding him from egregious actuality. Arun Vijai Mathavan’s pictures of Dalit sanitation staff and mortuary technicians throughout the lockdown, and the acute circumstances and prejudice they face — heightened at a time of enforced social isolation — are additionally placing.
Gopal Gangawane’s portray Thinker is certainly Rodin’s Thinker, however sitting on a glass-cube pedestal, he towers above three emaciated youngsters gazing longingly at a roti hanging contained in the dice. Does his philosophical, maybe sympathetic, gaze assist them in any means? Will they ever have the ability to suppose abstractly if all they will afford to consider is their subsequent meal? One other acquainted picture — the pietà, Mary cradling the physique of Christ — is repurposed within the ink portray, Moms Arms are Extra Comfy, by Khandakar Ohida. A physique with pink flesh, blood and burns, held in a lady’s arms reminds us of the quotidian violence confronted by the subaltern.
Intersectionality was at play in all places, because the exhibition checked out inequalities in numerous dimensions. Siddhi Jadhav’s pictures supplied a peek into the lifetime of a hijra, whereas Tejaswini Sonawane’s etching, Arriving House, depicted, grotesquely, the contradictions between modernity and custom as a grimacing woman-owl, striving to take flight, stays grounded below the gaze of society’s beady eyes.
Such thematic expansiveness meant that Damaged Foot wasn’t purely centered on the plight of migrant labourers, however created an unifying structure that took the Structure as its keystone. Its invocation of elementary rights and the now-totemic preamble took one again to the anti-CAA protests whereas the work of artists like Randeep Maddoke and Kuldip Karegaonkar depicting the lives and deaths of farmers was uncannily well timed. The documentary worth of recording by means of artwork the tragedy of migrant staff throughout the lockdown, one of many biggest but most muted crises in our current historical past, is that this undertaking’s most essential achievement.