An artist whose installations delve into the deeper realities of human existence, speaks thousand times louder on man’s deep connect with nature. The works of Srinivasa Prasad, on display at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, have this awe-inspiring effect.
The huge 18ft x 20ft x 5ft installation, titled ‘Erase’, and set in the centre of Aspinwall House, engages the art enthusiast by making him a part of the installation. The Shimoga-based artist has put up a ‘cocoon’ which is suspended over a set of steps. The ascent to the cocoon, made from the branches of thorny shrubs, has steps constructed out of filled gunnysacks.
As the viewer climbs up, the head and shoulders enter the opening of the cocoon’s prickly hollow. The space inside is intended as a place to leave all negative and ‘prickly’ thoughts, encouraging the audience to whisper about things they want to let go of.
Ask him about the inspiration, and Prasad says, “At the end of the day we all want to be free from impurities and have a clean mind. This cocoon provides that space.”
Though it took him five days to compile the whole work, there was much more time spent on the preparatory work. “I was keen to use only natural and used materials for this work. Initially I thought of filling the gunny bags with spices, because of the Kerala connect. But later I decided to fill it with mud which at the time of dismantling will go where it actually belongs. Also, the gunny bags have inscriptions in Malayalam, English, Kannada, stating the purpose it was used for,” the 38-year-old says.
As if to underline the transience of everything, the work, so finely crafted, will be set ablaze on the last day of the biennale. “At the end of the of the viewing period, the cocoon is set ablaze at night in a ritual that will destroy the structure along with the thoughts, memories and confessions uttered within it,” says the artist.
Apart from ‘Erase’, Srinivasa Prasad’s photo and video installations on Moidu’s Heritage are also part of the biennale. One intriguing work, titled ‘Known to Unknown’ is a performance-based installation for which he collected ashes of unclaimed bodies from crematoriums. He filled a 20,000 sq ft room with the ashes, using his left index finger. On this wall of human remains, insects wove their homes, creating a new layer of life.
The impetus behind this work is from a personal account of the artist’s life. “When my grandfather died and we had to go to the crematorium, I noticed how unclaimed bodies were cremated. They were using plastic to burn the unclaimed ones. While cremating the body of a loved one, we follow certain rituals, but unclaimed bodies do not have that luxury and no one wants their ashes,” says the artist about his most precious work till date.
In the installation ‘Tailor Mama’ the artist has modified a cycle and attached a sewing machine to it. “This idea came from my village, where the nearest tailoring shop is 10 km away, and even for a small repair work on their school uniforms, children had to travel far. To help them, I used to wait outside a school in the village with my modified cycle,” says Prasad, for whom, adding a personal touch to every work is a vital part of his art heritage.