Lens and sense

Samar Singh Jodha’s work at the ongoing Venice Biennale raises universal questions about making and receiving art.

June 09, 2013 07:50 pm | Updated 08:41 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

Photographic installation at the Biennale.

Photographic installation at the Biennale.

There is no India at Venice Biennale 2013 but Indian participation isn’t missing from the scene completely. Samar Singh Jodha along with a few more like Prabhavati Meyyapil — the numbers of which can be counted on the fingers of your hand — registers a low but powerful presence. Samar, an exemplary lensman, is like an artist nomad who can’t remain tied down to one place. So he travels around the world exhibiting his art. For instance, “Bhopal: The Silent Picture” which was shown by Amnesty International during the London Olympics will be travelling across Europe this Fall.

As of now Samar is in Venice where he was first part of a video projection in 2011 (when India pavilion happened). With “Outpost”, his first solo at the prestigious platform, Samar logs in his first major appearance there. The work is being exhibited at the 1000-year-old Arsenale Nord, the space where Chinese pavilion is also located.

For some years now Samar has been engaged with people and issues that are on the margins of society and mainstream media and “Outpost” takes the story forward. “Outpost” was inspired by habitat of migrant workers in India’s North East. But it evolved into larger ideas about making art in a world that is getting more and more culturally homogenised.

At the same time art is being increasingly framed by commercial interests that often sponsor as well as arbitrate art — which art is valuable and which is inconsequential,” says the photographer over e-mail. He visually executes it by having a pictorial trope of discarded containers fashioned into a habitat by miners in India’s pristine North East. Foregrounding the work with people who excavate precious minerals from earth feeding the same mass culture and industry adds irony to his endeavour. And then the narratives woven into the work bring out the results of global technopoly.

“My work has migrant miners in India’s North East as the starting point but goes on to raise larger, universal questions about making and receiving art,” says Samar adding that art is increasingly becoming the preserve of the so-called professional artist or virtuoso.

“This was never the case earlier as can be seen in India’s diversity or in her indigenous people where not just one or two individuals but the whole community is given to making art. My project is a reaction to the present state of affairs and a gentle reminder of what is slipping away.”

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