CHENNAI: Very few of us are aware of the lives led by the migrants in our cities. While some of them come to the city in search of a better livelihood, most are trying to free themselves from the deadly grip of debt.
Artist Sangita Maity looks into the lives of four such migrant labourers in the city of Delhi through her artworks that are currently displayed at the Khoj Studios as part of Peers 2014, an annual group show hosted by Khoj International Artists’ Association. On one wall of the studio is a letter written by one of the migrants to his family, while the rest of the room is filled with a mud house, a farming tool and other remnants of a past these labourers have left behind. “I wanted to tell the unheard stories that would force the viewer to ask questions. Where do these people come from? What kind of existence do they have in the cities? Can we make life better for them?” says Maity, who has in the past charted the lives of workers in Barbil Iron Ore Mine, an area on the border of Orissa and Jharkhand.
Peers 2014 brings together artworks by art graduates and post-graduates from all over India. The other participants are Amshu Chukki, Diptej Vernekar, Dheer Kaku, Ragini Bhow and Sanket Jadia.
Amshu was born in Bangalore and grew up in Hyderabad. He works with videos along with paintings, installations and photography. An important source of his inspiration is cinema and the cinematic language. At Khoj, his video work has been created with footage shot around the Khirkee Extension area – a semi-urban area around where Khoj is located – which straddles both ends of the social strata.
Goa-born Vernekar’s installations involve sound and video projection. “After I went to Khirki village, the place of the migrants, there has always been a sense of uncertainty — chaos of survival and a sense of disorientation. I have tried to question the reality of these spaces in my work, using video, photo and mixed-media installation,” Vernekar said.
Kaku explores patterns, repetition, loops, lines, circles, time, symmetry, shapes and ideas. “My works are chronicles of these patterns and conversations between my body and the chosen medium of expression. Actions, drawings, words, pictures, videos and sounds are my chosen instruments to display new perspectives through which I experience my mind and my city.”
Bangalore-based Bhow says, “At Khoj, I have continued to explore various materials through experiences and observations of light and space. My work creates an ongoing narrative exploring the human and the other-worldly.” The mirrors she has used reflect bizarre shapes when one gets closer to them and small sculptural objects placed on the floor acquire a completely new meaning when they are looked at through these mirrors.
Jadia, who is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Visual Arts from Ambedkar University in Delhi has created several sculptural forms in white cement as reference to the frozen form which is a static mass containing a moment in time. “These objects are strangely still and motionless. In this attempt to solidify the impermanence of the constantly changing form, what is revealed is the evidence of something once existing, an impression of reality. I have been working with white cement to explore these forms.”
(Poonam Goel is a freelance journalist who contributes articles on visual arts for unboxedwriters.com)