By Arsh Behal
As you enter 24 Jor Bagh, you come across a halogen board, illuminated in orange that reads: Abandoned. The rooms are washed in darkness, but the silent radiance of several photographic art works draws you within. An empty chair in the middle of a chaotic room; a collage of faces, distinct by skin colour; and a solitary glove – each support the theme.
“Abandoned” an exhibition featuring works of photographers Uzma Mohsin, Phillipe Caila and Ronny Sen is an ode to the disappearing identity of humanity and raises the question of survival and uncertainty, curated by Rahaab Allana of the Alkazi Foundation of Arts.
Mohsin’s “Where we are” talks about the perils of migration, the yearning for freedom and the desperate need to belong. A light box comprises letters, all in Urdu on yellow paper. Her photographs are of people arriving and leaving in haste, with empty houses and a collection of undisturbed objects. “This is an account of my personal conversation with the outside world and my shared experiences with the people I have met during my travels to Switzerland and other parts of Africa and Sri Lanka,” she says. Audio visuals of railway tracks and crossroads and people sharing stories introduce you to the transitory nature of life.
The exhibition site has been used as a vein connecting the narrative, with images stuck on staircases, revolving cubes installed on walls, and art works placed in bathrooms and bathing tubs.
Caila’s theme “Etudes in Situ” is reflected in his seamless images of the French society. A man dressed in a tuxedo, visibly in a trance with his eyes closed; a shoe placed before a window with the city skyline in the background; a palm with words engraved on it are from Excerpts from Europa discussing the impact of human settlements. Post.Series has images of children, two women kissing, bare-chested men, a woman screaming, and shots of towering skyscrapers. “All these pictures are over four years old. These are tales of my experiences with the night and the city. I like to call it cosmology and have been largely inspired by the writing of Guy De Maupessant,” says the artist.
Sen’s photos – of drought; an old man squatting on a rock at twilight, starring into the distance; shacks left unattended in empty villages; a woman in a red sari, standing with a child; and a rotten carcass of a dog – embody a community’s uncertain future, of coal miners in Jharkhand.
The exhibition is a mute conversation of civilizations and their collision with time and discovery, of the importance of freedom to people imprisoned within their own lives.