The Punjab Lalit Kala Akademi has brought to Chandigarh “Farmer is a Wrestler”, an exhibition by Delhi-based artists Jiten Thukral and Sumir Tagra, which addresses the urgency of the agrarian crisis faced by farmers in India. Over the years, generational divisions of land, climate change, votebank politics, a lack of implementation of law and the general deficit of formal education in rural communities has severely affected the lives and livelihoods of Indian farmers.
Using the metaphor of sport and game, the exhibition draws parallels with kushti — the traditional Indian wrestling popular among rural communities. The wrestling bout depicts physical and mental struggle, endurance and resilience, which are symbolic of the farmer fighting for his life against the agrarian crisis. The exhibition titled “Farmer is a Wrestler”, pinpoints this aspect of the farmers’ fate. “There is a constant and urgent need for art to manifest the stories of our times in new idioms and vocabularies. It is our constant endeavour to bring such narrative to the audience of the region,” says Diwan Manna, President of the Akademi.
As natives of Punjab, Thukral and Tagra delve into their own personal histories and memories to address the socio-cultural changes most visible in their home state. Shifting family values, a desire for “escape” via migration, and changing middle-class aspirations have all been recurring motifs in their work. This exhibition carries forward the artists’ use of “games” as a tool to address complex issues through interactive and playful means. Their approach intends to give viewers a sense of nostalgia and comfort, while challenging the status quo.
Thukral and Tagra work collaboratively with a wide range of media including painting, sculpture, installations, interactive games, video, performance and design. The two work on new formats of public engagement and attempt to expand the scope of what art can do. Over the years, they have had notable exhibitions across the world and in India. This year, they have been invited to mount exhibitions at Quarry Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park in UK, Kunstverein Ludwigsburg in Stuttgart, Germany and Lille Tripostle in France.
The exhibition and artists’ presentation is scheduled for February 20, 5.15 pm at Punjab Lalit Kala Akademi, Sector 16.