Considered the last book written by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, before his final years of insanity, Ecce Homo: How One Becomes What One Is, is often viewed as his last testament, where the philosopher both applauds and questions himself and also suggests how a superhuman can perhaps manoeuvre all challenges. His thoughts, over the years, have seen varied interpretations, and now they form the thrust of Gigi Scaria’s exhibition “Ecce Homo”, on view at Vadehra Art Gallery in Delhi.
“One can have everything s/he wants but at what cost? There could be consequences of following the Nietzschean model,” says Scaria. He leads his audience to the exhibition — where, Nietzsche’s philosophy is implemented in contemporary times. There are no direct references, but Scaria, 45, attempts to respond to and review the current socio-political context, and places the individual as the central figure in the larger ethos.
The showcase, in some ways, takes forward his abiding engagements with the issues of environment, urbanisation and migration. If in his 2017 solo “All About This Side” at Aicon Gallery in New York, the urban stories related more specifically to environmental degradation, in the current showcase he delves deeper into the human mind. Among others, is a reference to French artist Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker. Scaria’s bronze male sits on a well, even as water gushes from underneath — commenting, among others, on the depleting water resources. Power Test is a fist fight, representing the constant everyday battles and challenges.
Scaria does not give his protagonists a moment of peace. The human figures seem shattered and burdened under constant pressure, battling the self and their surroundings. In Human Pull, for instance, the man of top of a human pyramid earns an angelic wing but no apparent contentment. “Human beings put in so much effort to reach the top but what if they find nothing at the top,” notes Scaria. He also comments on being a slave to society in Conviction, a set of three drawings where he borrows from the widespread imagery of Hanuman, where Rama is believed to reside in his chest. Scaria has the digital signs for play, pause, play. “Individuals can become a puppet in someone’s hand,” observes the Delhi-based artist.
The recent cases of lynchings also prompt a work. In the video Disclaimer, Scaria suggests how, perhaps a magician is performing tricks with people. He records a magician playing the popular Three Cup Game, moving onto images of dead bodies. “It could be all somebody else’s doing,” says Scaria.
The past was not too different from the present. The dark history of the rhyme Ringa Ringa Roses (Ring Around the Rosie) is also referred too — believed to have its origin in the Great Plague in Europe during medieval times, where several people lost their lives. In his work, Scaria has women in bronze holding hands and standing in a circle. “It is a comment on how we treat our women, coming from different backgrounds,” says the artist. He ends where he begins — this show, he says, is not a digression from his more familiar practice but an extension. The exhibition is on at Vadehra Art Gallery, D-53, Defence Colony, till November 24