Vibha Galhotra
Vibha Galhotra

Waste case scenario

Vibha Galhotra’s architectonic and sound sculpture in Delhi utilises construction waste and raises questions about its disposal.

Of the many things contributing to ecological imbalance, the extensive waste we produce is a glaring issue. There is an urgent need to come up with better solutions. Construction waste caused by demolition of buildings attributes to an alarming proportion of aggregate waste dumped in landfills. Future Fables—an architectonic and sound sculpture in Delhi—by visual artist Vibha Galhotra takes roots in this rubble. It aims to contemplate existential truths.

“The inception of Future Fables is a culmination of personal experiences, environmental insights and political reflections. The use of rubble is not new to my work, I earlier used it as found and abandoned material in my solo exhibition Insanity in the Age of Reason back in 2017. To me, it is emblematic of urbanisation’s march and its toll on natural landscapes, witnessing environmental degradation and exacerbated by climatic calamities,” she explains. In recent times, the stark imagery of war-torn landscapes strewn with debris from global conflicts has intensified the Delhi-based artist’s sense of urgency.

The work advocates for a conscientious approach that prioritises the preservation of structures whenever possible. Galhotra says that the decision to demolish or conserve a structure requires a careful balance between respecting its historical significance and advancing societal progress. “Responsible architectural practices focus on prolonging the lifespan of existing buildings by conserving their fundamental structure, thereby reducing waste and environmental harm,” she adds.

Galhotra regards these materials as artefacts of time and incorporates them into her artistic work. It is her endeavour to ensure that they contribute to our shared history and cultural legacy, even within the realm of waste. The 46-year-old says, “Instead of outright condemning urbanisation, I advocate for a more nuanced perspective. My focus is to promote responsible consumption practices.”

Through this work, she delves into the significance of debris gathered from different dumping sites in the city (specifically from Delhi), which metaphorically also speaks of areas affected by conflict and climate change. Galhotra perceives this rubble not only as tangible remnants but also as symbolic representations of our shared heritage, meant to be preserved for future generations. “By repurposing this waste, I aim to highlight its importance as a reflection of our history while also striving to minimise its detrimental effects,” she adds.

A potential critique of Future Fables is the use of industrial process and material. While Galhotra has employed found and discarded concrete slabs, there is extensive use of welded metal frame. The purpose of art is to pose a question for its viewers. Galhotra explains that for this installation, approximately 80 per cent of the materials used consist of rubble collected from various parts of Delhi, while the remaining 20 per cent is steel. “I have taken care to utilise all materials with environmental consciousness. However, it is essential to acknowledge that nothing in this world, including art-making, is entirely free of a carbon footprint,” she adds. The highly finessed works stand in contrast to the debris of the dump yard and landfills.

Lines form spoken words authored by Galhotra herself deepen the experience, allowing viewers to connect with the urgency and significance of the subject matter. Each viewer’s interaction enriches the collective understanding and appreciation of the message conveyed. “Every viewer brings a unique perspective and art invites multiple interpretations and journeys of exploration,” she says. One hopes that the work could be placed at a site with far greater access to truly achieve its purpose—advocacy and sensitivity for the community towards the issue of waste.

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The New Indian Express