Over the last couple of years, during his myriad travels, Delhi-based artist Vir Kotak has been relentlessly capturing the stillness of the sky. The resulting images form the crux of his installation Capturing the silence of the skies at Delhi’s Shrine Empire gallery, where he has placed a series of black-and-white images of fluffy clouds floating against the sky, captured from 30,000 ft above the ground. The work is part of his latest exhibition “The Eminent Citizen”, a cynical play on American poet WH Auden’s poem The Unknown Citizen.
It is an exploration of the social structure that allows the world’s influential citizens to remain disconnected from the social reality of the masses. Encompassing lens-based works, sound and sculptural installations and drawings, Kotak points outs that through the show, he “does not see the world for what it may be, but more from a position of privilege”. He says, “As I shot pictures of the sky when travelling at a high altitude, one could not spot any water body or land. I travel a lot. Maybe, I have enjoyed that sort of eminence too. The show is semi-autobiographical in nature.”
The diptych, titled An unwitting peace, or life, is a close-up shot of a luxurious sofa in a cafe, taken in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, last year. The tour guide showing Kotak the capital city also told him about her life, of how she was married into a privileged household that turned out to be abusive. He says, “She had two options, to stay in that place with privilege, or choose life. And the woman chose life.”
Portraying his love for the skyline and grids of cities, be it in Manhattan, Hong Kong or Mumbai, is his ceramic installation Unseeing, where similar looking ceramic pillars, each with varied textures and colours, take over an entire room. “In a post globalised world, everything appears the same. Is Los Angeles the same as Beijing or is London the same as Delhi? They are fundamentally different cities with people and separate cultures. A lot of distinguished people travel by aeroplanes, jump off and stay at hotels, meet the same type of people everywhere and think Hyderabad is the same as Guwahati. They are culturally and physically different places,” Kotak says.
The 32-year-old had also showcased his exhibition “The Memory Project” at Mumbai’s Jehangir Art Gallery last year. “It dealt with the subjectivity of memories. Are your memories really your own or did someone put them there?” he says. The exhibition is on till April 5 at D-395,Defence Colony, Delhi