The instant reference one draws from the word ‘manifesto’ is politics and of course, elections, when all political parties lay out their goals and vision in an election manifesto. Artists making manifestos is something that is bound to intrigue, and that is precisely what a show at Delhi’s Khoj Studios achieved when a show of 27 artists’ manifestos was shown recently. We Are Ours: A Collection of Manifestos for The Instant, was a group show with works by Aakash Nihalani, Abhishek Hazra, Aditya Pande, Aradhana Seth, Bharti Kher, Chittrovanu Mazumdar, Hema Upadhyay, Hetain Patel, Jitish Kallat, Kiran Subbaiah, Mithu Sen, Neha Choksi, Nikhil Chopra, Pors & Rao,
Prajakta Potnis, Praneet Soi, Prayas Abhinav, Ranbir Kaleka, Rajorshi Ghosh, Raqs Media Collective, Sahej Rahal, Shilpa Gupta, Shreyas Karle, Surabhi Saraf, Vishal Dar, Yamini Nayar and Zuleikha Chaudhari.
Curated by Himali Singh Soin, the show had A-4 size works — in reference to the historical manifestos that were always printed on the same size of paper — but their medium in this show varied from mirror, paper, video, sound and more.
One entered the Khoj building to be greeted by an ecological manifesto on an A-4 size paper that was made by Kiran Subbaiah and was hung on a tree in the courtyard. Talking of ecology and its
preservation, this indeed set us thinking about what one’s goals should be to save the environment.
Inside one of the rooms hung a carved red-bordered book which had its pages glued together. Created by artist Shilpa Gupta, this book made reference to content which has been deliberately concealed from public eye, leaving the viewer to imagine if there are indeed pages of manifestos hidden inside it.
One of the most striking works in the show is by Kolkata-based artist Chittrovanu Mazumdar who has made lead tablets in the same size of A-4 and says that he is “dealing with the idea of erasing and re-writing”.
On these lead tablets, he first inscribed the text which was then scraped off so that the surface could be used for writing again. “That is what manifestos are about, we erase what has been there in the past to write new memories,” he said.
On Sahej Rahal’s A-4 size sheet of paper that hangs against a light bulb in another room, there are random words that Rahal says have been taken from mythology, history, pop culture, politics.
Then there is Bharti Kher’s What can I tell you that you don’t know already? — a set of seven mirrors which have been deliberately smashed.
There is Hema Upadhyay’s mixed media work titled Simple Life made with grains of rice.
Hetain Patel’s manifesto stuck near a toilet to become a humorous toilet manifesto and many more quirky works are on display in the collection of manifestos.
(Poonam Goel is a freelance journalist who contributes articles on visual arts for unboxedwriters.com)