NEW DELHI: Kiran Chandra, a Kolkata-born New York-based artist, uses her multi-media interactive art to speak of imbalances in the pattern of land use in India and the plight of marginal farmers.
Chandra’s ‘Project 2012.01’ at the Shrine Empire gallery, installation is a reflection on the near-collapse of the agrarian economy in the country by inequitable distribution of land, small holdings, rampant urbanisation and industrial progress sometimes at the cost of agriculture; causing distress to farmers. Estimates say nearly a quarter of a million farmers in India have committed suicide in the last 16 years.
Piles of clay have taken up the gallery space to resemble farmland. In one corner, the artist has planted "jowar and paddy" which will grow throughout a month's period of the exhibition. The gallery has been wrapped in fabric printed with audio file images of interviews and conversations that Chandra has had with farmers and their families in Chattisgarh last summer.
A choreographed video installation shows a turban, being tied to a man's head, gradually becoming his shroud.
The installation brings together a variety of mediums like textiles, video, mud, grass, seeds, charcoal drawings and audience participation to highlight the changing socio-economic environment that began with the destruction of farm lands, natural disasters and high-yielding agro-practices with synthetic inputs.
"The essence of my art is disconnect and dislocation between the personal and the political, rural and urban and between the public and private, art and the world. In my installation, 'Project 2012.01', I have tried to convey a conscious message about land," Chandra said. The artist said she has been working with the idea of land – how it has been distributed for nearly five years – and trying to translate the realities on her visual canvas.
"I have lived in two places – New York and Kolkata. I have seen India changing. A few years earlier, I had painted a mural (West Bengal) from a newspaper photograph of police barricades at Singur … I am conscious about the implications of Singur and the 'mallification' (the proliferation of malls) of the country," Chandra said. The artist said she "had played on the word, 'Singur' and superimposed it on her interpretation of the photograph painted with dry election graffiti ink in red, green, orange and white in her multi-media exposition, "T(here)" at the Ganges Art space in Kolkata.
"I also made a series of posters on Singur and distributed them in Kolkata and Mumbai…," she said.
Chandra has turned the Shrine Empire Gallery in the capital into a experimental farm for ‘Project 2012.01’.
Chandra will also debut at the India Fair January 25-29 with an installation, "The State of Bengal"- a mixed artscape of icons and symbols representing Bengal.
"Art has a responsibility. Art for art's sake is extremely self-indulgent," Chandra said.