Saturday, May 16, 2020

exile and art exhibit | Kochi Biennale, 2019




I witnessed this scene at Kochi Biennale in March, 2019. A girl was looking for her family house in an installation by Veer Munshi titled "Pandit Houses". She called up someone on the phone and asked them if they recognized. She was hoping to see it there. It wasn't. "All of them look similar". I later talked to the girl and found that she had traveled from Chennai. 

The actual installation had a display screen in center, in it a house burns on loop. Someone, visitor, it seems had stolen the display pad. So, you you had was houses. 

"Homes don't get demolished, they live inside us...Grid of 50 Photographs and Video on loop 5x7 inches each Veer Munshi's "Pandit House" is an ongoing photographic archive. It presents the stark documentary evidence, without annotation or comment, of the erasure of the Kashmiri Pandit  minority from the life of the Valley. This is the tragic outcome of a combination of factors: separatist violence and intolerance, the cynical indifference of the State, the breakdown of trust between communities. Presented without manipulation or theatricality, these houses and neighbourhoods, left behind by a community fleeing into exile, stand in our line of site as ruins, monuments, memorials. Munshi's suite of photographs provides testimony to the unforgiving march of history, which takes no prisoners."

That's the on-site description of the installation. The text contextualized the work in reference to Kashmir, when it talks about "erasure of the Kashmiri Pandit minority from the life of the Valley", with "life of valley" being the subject. However, in the video one can see what "Homes don't get demolished, they live inside us" means and what weird thing the installation does to a subject. Even a sighting is a prossible celebrations. Reclaiming of a memory. And all of this, nothing to do with the actual physical thing - House.

 
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Additional exhibits:

Hauntology by Veer Munshi. There was "power cut" at the time, so it came out all the more haunting. Dead turning into precious relics. More precious than life. Little collectables. Exhibits. Whole valley a mine. That's what all the shine in the darkness of grave spoke to me.

text at the exhibit:

Veer Munshi

Hauntology

In his installation Relics from the Lost Paradise, the Kashmir-born artist Veer Munshi seems to literalize the dictum 'History is Alive'. Both the reliquary and the coffin are repositories/ resting places for the dead, with the difference that one is configured to the task of animating/ remembrance, the other with that of putting wayl forgetting. While contact with the contents of the former, is deemed salubrious and hence desirable, the thought of exposure to the contents of a grave would engender abject horror and repulsion. Both these objects are charged, albeit differently, with magical properties. One while the other haunts. Mobilizing the strong charge of abjection and grim consequence, induced by the imagery of a disinterred grave, the artist, in an emulation of the passion of Heath cliff, offers up for examination a war-tom and dismembered body of Kashmir as a corpus delicti, opening a space for meditation on the protracted suite and the larger question why war? The audience is invited to take a walk through the graveyard of history and throw themselves open for possession by the undead past and the dying present in a corrective danse macabre. Often times, all that the dead want is for someone to hear their story before the graph shifts from the paranormal to the normal again.


Murder of Crows by Gargi Raina [previously] Being a generational mainland KP, this was only work that looked at Kashmir from a distance, and in a bit of old school "paradise" lost format. 



   




text at the exhibit:

Gargi Raina

A MURDER OF CROWS (The Crow Funeral)

Gouache, ink, charcoal on paper 5 panels : 6.25 ft x 3.5 ft each 2018

In the English language a more poetic word is used to describe collective nouns, specifically groups of animals. In the book of St. Albans, in 1486 in medieval England these terms are mentioned

a gaggle of geese.
a school of fish, 
a pride of lions, 
A Murder of Crows

Crows are one of the closest to human beings in feeling and expressing grief collectively at the death of one of their own Crows hold funerals and mourn their dead. When a crow dies, other crows fly from afar and gather around and make a lot of noise In response to a distress call from near a dead crow, other crows fly in from afar and gather around and make a lot of noise. They react strongly to seeing one of their own who has died. These crows can share the knowledge of dangerous humans with other crows They have long collective memories and hold a grudge and pass it on to their offspring The sight of a dead crow leaves a lasting impression on living crows. This expression of public collective grief of crows is akin to human collective grief at funerals.

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