Documenting degeneration

Documenting degeneration

For aboriginals of Australia - the continent’s original inhabitants, the land today is marked by the aftermath of colonisation and territorial divisions. And three aboriginal artists, ancestrally linked to each other, are presenting their ideas of impact of colonisation through photographs, films, sculptures and drawings in Maamungun: Compatriots.

Through their works, Nicole Foreshew, Jonathan Jones and the late Michael Riley together examine the impact on environment and ecology. The artists have diverse approaches yet negotiate, explore and expand on the concept of land and culture. United by shared Wiradjuri (largest aboriginal group in the area now known as New South Wales) ancestry, the artists in different ways are committed to documenting and responding to the localised and accelerated degeneration of their homeland.

As one enters the exhibition area, Jones’ work titled ‘Revolution 2010/11’ is seen manipulating fluorescent tube lighting into sculptural constructions to evoke the cruelty and luminosity of salt-encrusted landscapes in Australia and India. The artist is inspired by his 2009 visit to India where he retraced Mahatma Gandhi’s historic Salt March journey from Ahmedabad to Dandi. His work thus symbolises cross-cultural issues about the politics of protest, extractive industries, sustainable land management and the struggle for independence from Britain.

This struggle for freedom is taken to another level by Nicole Foreshew’s work entitled ‘belong to all but to none 3 2012’, a video where the artist expresses her relation with silk cloth and shows how the same travels through generations, from her grandmother to her. Her reason for choosing silk as a medium for her art is her “long association with the fabric,” says Nicole who has closely seen the process of silk production in India and Burma. “It is complex to explain the relationship because humankind is an integral constituent of nature and should not be viewed as somehow separate from it. My work is akin to a ceremonial performance and alludes to the ritualised and intergenerational responsibilities of caring for the land.”

It is this land with predominant tones of religion that is explored by Michael Riley in digital photographic prints from the series ‘flyblown 1998’.  His work meditates on the social, environmental and cultural implications of colonisation. Especially in the photograph where a pigeon is lying dead on barren land, the blood stains make it a gory sight.
Michael shows bodies of polluted water, the unbounded sky, fields of endangered native grasses and the over-farmed earth which becomes symbolic of the effects wrought by colonisers, implicitly.

Organised as part of OZ fest, in collaboration with Delhi International Arts Festival, the exhibition is on display till November 11 at Lalit Kala Akademi from 11 am to 6 pm.  

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