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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

In cold storage

Albert Einstein today might be known for his theories on Physics,but in the 1920s he embarked on a quest to invent a ‘safe refrigerator’ that would be eco-friendly and would operate without electricity.

Written by Anjuly Mathai |
April 15, 2010 4:25:55 am

Sanjeev Khandekar and Vaishali Narkar weave art around a refrigerator

Albert Einstein today might be known for his theories on Physics,but in the 1920s he embarked on a quest to invent a ‘safe refrigerator’ that would be eco-friendly and would operate without electricity. Unfortunately,his model became obsolete after the depression. And the refrigerator continued to occupy pride of position in an increasingly consumerist and capitalist society. Which made it the perfect metaphor for Marathi writer Sanjeev Khandekar and artist Vaishali Narkar’s exhibition of photographs titled ‘Bad Breath’.

Khandekar says that Bad Breath has several connotations. It not only symbolises the putrid smell (“almost like the smell of the dead”) emanating from the innards of the refrigerator but also a polluted society on a reckless mission to destroy all natural resources. As independent curator Gitanjali Dang says,“What looks like a refrigerator full of goodies could in reality be one gigantic carbon footprint.”

Bad Breath is an extension of an earlier exhibition titled ‘Everything You Wanted To Know About Your Bad Breath. However Afraid To Ask Alfred Hitchcock’ which Khandekar had displayed at the Bombay Art Gallery in 2008. The exhibition opens at the Matthieu Foss Gallery,

Ballard Estate,on April 16 and will be on till May 15.

Perhaps the biggest challenge Khandekar and Narkar faced was to infuse life into a series of images revolving around one object: the refrigerator. “We had to make sure that each photograph tells a different story,” says Khandekar. According to Narkar the duo worked in their studio where they created the artificial refrigerator from 10 pm to 3 am to get the perfect lighting. Using a wide spectrum of colour filters and various textural and tonal techniques like blurring and smudging,the refrigerators take multiple dimensions in the photographs—that of a neatly stacked row of buildings,a dissected human body,floating spatial objects and intertwined micro-ecological systems.

The artists’ refrigerator also incorporates a slew of influences from newspaper clippings on refrigerators from the 1930s to Karl Marx to Slovenian thinker Slavoj Zizek to author Suzanne Freidberg whose book Fresh elaborates on how the advent of cold storage subverted ideas of freshness,shifted power from consumers and producers to middlemen and virtually eliminated seasonality.

The duo perhaps first gained notoriety after their appealingly irreverent exhibition of paintings,sculptures and installations titled ‘Tits,Clits and Elephant Dicks’,which they exhibited at the Jehangir Art Gallery in 2006 and which the Mumbai Police barred from public viewing. Bad Breath has less explosive content but could still set the cogs and wheels of the brain whirring when you think that an apple you pick out from your refrigerator has a complex trail of labor practices,corporate controls,technological innovations and consumer choices attached to it.

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