Ohio-based multidisciplinary artist Julia Christensen’s ongoing artistic endeavour, Upgrade To Proxima B, is a project where she gets to design an artwork for an interstellar spacecraft, hoping to be launched in 2069. This will be sent to Proxima B, an exoplanet outside the solar system that is 4.2 light-years away. Thrilled with the idea of working with NASA scientists at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, the spacecraft’s journey is expected to take 40 years and it will have to keep upgrading itself autonomously. Many notes from the discussions and meetings centred around the project, along with photographs of these crucial conversations, make way into her photographic artwork titled Upgrade to Proxima B at Shrine Empire Gallery.
Resting alongside this are Christensen’s photographs of pen drives, floppy disks, CDs, cassettes, old iphones and mobile batteries — items that were once celebrated and claimed as the future of technology and humanity, which became obsolete and went out of use with the advent of newer gadgets. Together they comprise Obsolescence Culture and serve as a stark commentary on the upgrade culture of the contemporary world. Fascinated by the idea of future and the various ways it has been interpreted in science fiction, popular culture, literature, philosophy and poetry, curator Premjish Achari has put together the show ‘A Time for Farewells’ to delve into the idea of future as seen through the lens of 10 artists, including Atul Bhalla, Gigi Scaria, Sumedh Rajendran and Vivan Sundaram. “We are trying to show that the future can be imagined despite the economic disparity, ecological crisis and refugee problems of today. Most movies speak about the end of earth, the doomsday or humans leaving our planet and foraying into another planet, but none talk about saving the planet. I found this thought very discomforting and started thinking about the show,” he says.
Much like the findings of the Indus Valley civilisation during archaeological excavations, New Delhi-based Sundaram has arranged terracotta fragments in an abstract manner and converted them into light boxes, as if referring to the ruins of modernity in Astral Vision (2019). On the other hand, Switzerland-born artist Markus Baenziger, who has been addressing environmental concerns through art, has placed tiny terracotta pots alongside those made using recycled plastic culled from today’s milk and yogurt packets next to a hanging screen. He hints at the different models of sustainable material choices and strategies that humans could use.
Referring to the urban landscape and urbanisation in the three-minute video, On this Way (2017), Scaria zooms in on high-rise buildings in Noida with the metro swishing past them to show how the future doesn’t seem bright. Speaking about the many abandoned and incomplete high-rises that lie dormant in Noida today, he says, “The rampant construction taking place today is very weird and has no logic. It reveals a tendency to mark territories and is like a mindless game of engagement in trying to grab land or money. We seem to be on a run for something and have no clue of what’s happening. Right now, it is so important for everyone to learn from the past for the future so that we don’t make the same mistakes.”
Achari feels that many of these half-constructed buildings appear like relics of a future which have failed to achieve their purpose, thereby leaving the onlookers to think about the various possibilities of the future in their minds.
The exhibition on at D 395, Defence Colony, till August 10