AT THE 200-year-old abandoned sarai adjoining Olive Bar and Kitchen at Mehrauli, artist Asim Waqif has set up his site-specific work titled A Puzzle for a Future Archaeologist. Just as archaeology tries to decipher civilisations through what they have left behind, the artist — through the piece — has offered clues for future archaeologists within the dilapidated ruins, located at an area that was once host to one of the seven ancient cities of Delhi.
Calling himself a “prankster”, Delhi-based Waqif has put together an odd selection of personal and found objects — an old auto front dating back to the ’60s, his father’s Rajdoot motorcycle on which he had learnt how to ride a bike, metal parts and a window he discovered at the site, among other things. Buried in the ground for three months, these appear excavated like an archaeological dig. After the show ends today, Waqif will be burying them back, leaving it in that state forever. “So if an archaeologist 5,000 years from now is looking at our civilisation, these are the sort of things he will find about us, and wonder what had happened,” says the 37-year-old.
Working at the site for four months, his show titled “Autolysis” makes a reference to the breakdown of plant or animal tissues by enzymes present in the tissues themselves — a sort of “self- digestion” — through more than 30 site-specific installations and prints.
Among the many photographic frames pasted on the brick walls are MCD Sealing and Great Eastern Mill, Mumbai, which are archival digital prints of buildings destroyed by the Delhi government during the sealing drive and of the abandoned mill in Mumbai. Waqif has worked with different acids and strong chemicals to scar the image of the surface of the print. “The art market is obsessed with super-expensive digital archival prints, made on acid-free paper, apparently because they don’t fade for 100 years,” he says.
Archival Prints Ka Achaar qualifies as one of the highlights of the show, where the artist has created a pickle of digital prints in a set of jars, mixing it with ingredients such as yeast and curd, to get fungus. As one draws closer to the jars to read the details, sensors come into play and make an alarming noise. “From far, it looks very attractive, but when you go closer, the light dims down, it starts flashing and beeping, and becomes more difficult to read. Although they are rotting inside, they look beautiful from the outside,” says Waqif, who has had many acclaimed international exhibits, and is known to examine our lifestyle and habits of consumption through his works.
The exhibition is on today, 12pm—6 pm. Entry via the driveway entrance to Olive Bar and Kitchen, One Style Mile, Delhi