Two years ago, when Israeli artist Achia Anzi realised that he had forgotten his mobile phone at home, he meandered through the narrow, complex lanes of Old Delhi, in search of an STD booth. But, he found none. This led the 35-year-old artist to imagine the booth as a symbol of memory — of how he used to call his family, mostly his mother, back home in Israel, from small wooden cubicles. He feels these booths are now “almost like a dream, which one cannot sense any more, and have vanished into oblivion”.
This strong sense of memory has found its way into Anzi’s latest exhibition “Land of Nod” as an installation of an STD booth, at the entrance of Gallery Threshold. Any visitor would dismiss it at first glance. But step in and your ears are bombarded with the noise of fans, and recordings on the loop that say: “The number you are trying to call is not reachable, please call again later”; leaving a visitor
“For me, the STD booth is a confusion of space, where I feel I am not in India, neither in Israel when I make a call back home. It represents the position of an immigrant, of being stuck between two cultures, two places and experiences,” says the visiting professor of Hebrew at Jawaharlal Nehru University .
Anzi arrived in India 10 years ago, and the exhibition reflects his experiences as an immigrant, his feelings as an outsider, and his struggles of finding a common ground. The title for the exhibition came from multiple sources. In Hebrew, ‘nod’ translates into wandering, in Genesis 4, the ‘Land of Nod’ lies in East of Eden, where Cain was sent into exile for killing his brother Abel, and according to poet Robert Louis Stevenson, this is the land of dreams, where he escapes to, in his poem by the same name.
Out of the 12 installations, Sleepers, comprising six bunk beds that are characteristic of the berths seen on Indian trains, easily qualifies as the most captivating sight in the gallery space. Made from iron and plaster in the same measurements used in a sleeper coach, it talks about the constant state of movement, much similar to the condition of an immigrant. Grip would easily resonate with the sentiments of those caught in between the daily struggle of travelling in local trains and metros, as handlebars hang from the gallery’s ceiling. He says, “It represents the desire to hold on to a place, as one tries to find a place to rest, and the conflict to find a proper point to stand on the ground, amid the movement.”
On our way out, the artist swiftly points to an untitled work — a 10-ft ruler-sized glass cut out — placed against a wall. Easy to miss, it brings out the emotions of immigrant who is often completely ignored by onlookers.
The exhibition is on display till February 24 at C-221, Sarvodaya Enclave. Contact: 41829181