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Through the Looking Glass

“The ecological disaster cannot be fixed; we cannot return to Paradise...” These grave words of French philosopher Michel Foucault are echoed throughout the body of work.

Ravi Agarwal’s latest exhibition looks at nature as a construct

“The ecological disaster cannot be fixed; we cannot return to Paradise…” These grave words of French philosopher Michel Foucault are echoed throughout the body of work of artist Ravi Agarwal’s solo photography exhibition,Flux,at Gallery Espace,in New Friends Colony.

Agarwal who is an environmentalist and the founder of Toxics Link,an environmental NGO,turned to photography in the late1980s as a way of expressing his concern with local economy,the production of food and its relation to our ecology. “We construct nature as we like to perceive it and my intention,in this exhibition,is to underline this aspect. Because we construct and control nature we are responsible for it,” says the 52-year-old Delhi-based artist.

The exhibition consists of a series of photographs in different sizes and formats and a video work. One series features tar machines used for road construction; there is a series of beautiful wild trees with large text written across the images. Another series consists of close studies of whitened,parched earth and a sewage pond,while a third photo-installation consists of images of flyovers in different parts of the city.

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“I don’t want to romanticise my work,which is why I tried to photograph the tar machines as cold documentary portraits. I used text across the trees to disrupt a romantic viewing of wilderness. This is because we need to review our idea of nature as perfect. The same way the notion of the perfect happy family has to be called into question,” says Agarwal. While the text does act as a disruption,one wonders if it makes the works too literal.

“The video is personal—a memoir set in two spaces,that I’ve been visiting for 30 years. One is my mother’s old haveli while the other is a sewage pond in the centre of an ancient forest,” says Agarwal. The video inter-cuts between these two spaces giving the viewer a sense that both are important to the artist and one cannot choose one over the other,leading to a dialogue about how to negotiate them in the personal space.

The exhibition is on till January 8. For details,contact: 26922947

First published on: 11-12-2010 at 03:17:51 am
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