Drenched in blood red colour, a large skull, decorated with Kashmir’s antique papier mache art — Kashmiri artist Veer Munshi’s famous accomplice in most of his artworks — has mirrors surrounding it in a small room at India Habitat Centre’s Visual Arts Gallery. Part of his site-specific installation Beyond the Personal, it lies surrounded by shrapnel, as if resulting from a bomb explosion. It is a jarring reminder of the recent Pulwama attacks and the bombings in Sri Lanka last month.
“Conflict can be social, political, economical, ideological or a division in one’s own thought process. In present times, it is visible in the form of polarised politics,” says Delhi-based Munshi, 60, as he sums up the exhibition “Silent Conflicts”. The show speaks about the inner struggles everyone goes through, with the help of the experiences of 12 contemporary artists and their videos, sculptures and canvases. Curator of the show Ashna Singh believes that the biggest war is from within. She says, “Everybody is going through something or the other. Today we are going through a constant inner struggle. Decades ago it was all about two nations fighting each other, but the majority today is going through so many differences within, be it on social media or each one trying to create an identity in a particular social segment. This constant struggle we go through everyday is so silent.”
Lahore born New York-based Pakistani artist Khalil Chishtee wraps the rusted iron silhouette of a burqa-clad woman, with Urdu calligraphy, as if she lies fenced within it in Definition. He speaks of how organised religion or the state imposes harsh laws on those who are weak. Chishtee points out how even in the US, in the wake of the abortion laws being implemented, men are trying to own women’s bodies and make decisions on their behalf. “I am really against imposing anything. There are strong parties imposing their ideas on minorities, be they a religion or a gender,” says the 53-year-old artist.
Shedding light on the dysfunctional relationships, people or political systems existing around her, artist Shivani Aggarwal has created objects that are symbolic of the same in her piece Dysfunctional. She has taken everyday objects and turned them into non-functional tools that have lost their purpose — a safety pin with two heads, a kettle with two spouts, and a hammer with thorns on its handle. Days before the last phase of the Lok Sabha elections took place, the Delhi-based artist said, “I don’t know whom to vote for. I find politics to be highly dysfunctional. It is functional only for the people in position, and not functional for people being ruled.”
Seeing picture perfect lives on social media, Singh says, “People are constantly posting photos all day, making their lives look better than the rest. They look well-dressed, and even if they aren’t happy, we tend to think the person is so much happier. They are always posting things that they own and the hotels they check in to. These are such dual lives that people are leading today. The works in the show have so much to do with that and they deal with these contradictions and dualities.”