India at 100

The panorama is choked with buildings huddled together in a concrete tapestry.

Written by Georgina Maddox | Published:April 12, 2011 2:44 am

How will urban India look in 2047,a century after Independence? An ongoing exhibition attempts to peep into the future

The panorama is choked with buildings huddled together in a concrete tapestry. Two mannequins dressed as armed guards,their uniforms covered in the same imagery as the huge photographic panel behind them,stand as silent sentinels and witness the untrammelled concrete growth. One is hard pressed to ask if those images are of Old Delhi,and is hit by a wave of claustrophobia with the realisation that they are. Is this how India will look when it turns 100 in 2047? Will there still be place for people to live in at all? This installation,titled Neo Camouflage,by Delhi-based artist,Vibha Galhotra,evokes many such fears.

The work is a part of an exhibition titled,“India At 100”,that is being held at the India Habitat Centre (IHC) till April 14. Presented by building firm Spiretech in association with IHC and arts NGOs like Majlis and Tree,“India at 100” comprises art,street theatre,seminars and talks by experts about urban development.

“I shot a 360 angle of the city with my camera and then blew it up into this large panorama,in which different buildings merge together,creating a chaotic urban landscape. The work evokes the idea of generic cities,since my comment is on environmental degradation and the cost that future generations will have to pay,” says Galhotra,who has previously shown this work in Mumbai and abroad.

Another multimedia sculpture,by Delhi-based Christine Michael,depicts the city as a strange animal made up of chilli-like shapes. The work is covered in a tangle of photographic images that include screaming mouths,city lights and twisting flyover roads.

Lensman Aditya Kapoor,however,pays tribute to the names and faces that have shaped the Capital over the years. He has put up large photographs,resembling hoardings,and creates a documentary that comprises portraits of famous Delhi citizens like Zohra Sehgal as well as nameless stereotypes like a banjaran flute player,Tibetan families and a Sikh farmer.

Alka Pande,one of the curators of the show,says,“Urban geography works like an island for me. Travelling from one metropolis to another across the globe is like stringing together of a garland of islands; each city is individualistic,yet they all seem connected.”

The Mumbai-based Majlis has flown in three installations from its larger,Cinema City project. “Cinema City is a year-long endeavour that documents and archives the way a cinema-producing city like Mumbai is affected economically,architecturally and artistically by films. The films,in turn,reflect the city and its many characteristics,” says documentary filmmaker Madhusree Dutta,who heads Majlis.

At IHC,one can see Kaushik Mukhopadhyay’s installation titled Bioscope,a recreation of a director’s studio by students of Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute of Architecture and Majlis,and Mumbai Sweatshop,a set of multiple video projections and text made by artists,architects and filmmakers from Mumbai.

The exhibition packs in thousands of images in its many artwork. This,ironically,bombards the viewer with colour and commentary from all sides,evoking the overwhelming urban clutter that the artwork are trying to condemn. Breathing space is vital,and the exhibition could have followed a less-is-more thumbrule for maximum impact.

The exhibition is on at IHC till April 14. Contact: 24682001

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