Homecoming or homecomings?

Identity question. Photo: Sampath Kumar G.P.  

Latika Gupta, curator of the “Homelands” exhibition that is on view at the National Gallery of Modern Art(NGMA), culled out the exhibition of more than 80 works from the British Council’s permanent collection of artworks. She said the theme simply emerged from the works.

“There were a few key works around which the theme developed and I refined it. When I saw a certain set of works like Susan Hiller’s Last Silent Movie or Tim Heatherington’s photographs, or even Mona Hatoum’s “Measures of Distance”, I realised that a lot of the works were addressing the experience of being in a different places whether it was the idea of travelling or being forced to move to another place. I started thinking about how we define where we are from, especially when we move. Then the question of identity came up, what are the various things that allow us to define our identity whether as an individual a family or a community,” she explains.

Susan Hiller’s “Last Silent Movie” consists of sound recordings of 25 extinct or endangered languages. Her video features an extract of each language with the translation. At the same time she has also displayed oscilloscope diagrams of phrase from each language.

Tim Heatherington’s photographs are from the series “Dem Ol Bod Ose: Creole: Architecture of Sierra Leone 2004, which was a project that documented West African history through the Creole architecture of Freetown. The architecture that combined Western and indigenous styles was created by the Creole community, who were descendents of resettled slaves.

Another engaging work is David Hocking’s series of sketches, almost like a comic, titled “A Rake’s Progress”, which explores a newcomer’s life in a big city (New York) where he is ultimately consumed by the crowd (metaphorically). Though Suki Dhanda’s photographs of a British-Muslim family showcasing their lives in the context of Britain seems more relevant to India. “Homelands”, as the write-up describes, explores the relationship between one’s identity in a shrinking world where geographical lines are getting blurred. The exhibition features works by artists like Jeremy Deller, Richard Long, George Shaw, Cornelia Parker and Grayson Perry.

So why is this significant to India? “I think most of the work is being showing in India for the first time. These are 28 of the top contemporary artists of the world, much of the work is iconic so that’s significant. Secondly, it’s interesting because it is a collaboration between British art and an Indian curator. It opens up new ways of thinking, of allowing an outsider’s perspective. So this opens up an opportunity, allowing for work to be read differently, to be presented in different ways.”

Considering India was under the British Colonial rule for over a century, a history which completely changed India’s identity in many ways, one wonders whether it contributed to the curator’s perspective?

“If you go to Britain today, there is this question of what is it to be British, whether one is still working with the idea of a Colonial Britain. Britain today has more than 300 nationalities or ethnicities and I think coming from this perspective and my position of being in a place which has had the history of a relationship with another place, in this case the UK, it presented an opportunity to rethink my own ideas,” explains Latika. Latika agrees that this is an important perspective, though she feels it is completely irrelevant to the exhibition itself. The whole idea of the exhibition is to raise questions about the idea of homelands.

“The exhibition is not saying this is what a homeland is. In fact, it s quite the opposite.”

“Homelands” will be on view until August 14 at NGMA, 49, Palace Road. For details contact.

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Printable version | Jul 28, 2021 5:27:27 AM |

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