Echoes of distress

Echoes of distress

A brief report in the newspapers, a rare cover story on a magazine or a hurriedly-done slot for news channels is how readers and viewers are informed about the agony and suffering of distressed Indian farmers who resort to suicide to save themselves from the unending burden of paying debts after failed crops.

The flow of information in different modes of communication is filtered, depending on the importance of the subject and availability of print space and air time.

But every time Baroda-based artist B V Suresh opens his email account, he invariably clicks on the newsletter he has subscribed to to keep himself  updated about the developments shaping contours of farmer suicides in the country.

The idea of expressing this continual distress had been lingering in his mind ever since, but it was only early this year the 55 years old decided to put his thoughts into action and create art that could easily be understood by the common man.

This is how the exhibition ‘Chronicles of Silence’ (Khamoshi ki Daastan) came into being which is curated by Pushpamala N and is displayed at Vadehra Art Gallery till December 31.

“I have been interested in this subject for a very long time. So when I subscribed to the newsletter, I realised the problem wasn’t just limited to India, across the globe farmers are going through a tough time,” Suresh, who was in the capital, tells Metrolife.

While conceptualising the exhibition, Suresh was sure that he wouldn’t be using any text or any painting to highlight the affliction on farmers by the insensitive system that restricts itself to a promising rhetoric and fails to implement.

These instances of paradox and contradiction are abundant in the exhibit, making it easier for the viewer to decipher the message conveniently. “We have used the expression of materials for the common man who is familiar with them and understands the issue easily,” he says.

If chaos is synonymous with a farmer’s life then Suresh has succeeded in recreating an environment using the art and science of mechanics to produce sounds that resemble mindset of a farmer whose life is in bedlam.

A clever representation of government’s tall claims to iron out issues in farmer’s life and make it smooth is through an installation that uses weights used by farmers to weigh the produce.

As these weights are slowly pulled up using metallic wires, they make no sound, but as they are dropped abruptly from a higher point, they crash down with raucous shrieks. That sound is particularly annoying and pierces ears, but the viewer is helpless since it is an experience to understand the games played by respective governments in power.

“We often feel that things are slowly improving as politicians make promises to improve their condition, but it takes a few minutes to pull them down and break their spirits. This indifferent attitude of looking at the issue is what I wanted to highlight,” he says.

The show also has audio recordings of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Mann ki Baat where he addressed the nation about the growing agrarian crisis, several chief ministers on measures taken by them and sad voices of farmers who admit that ‘farming is a dangerous occupation’.

There are several elements to this show and a constant disturbing sound accompanying visitor is a reminder of the tumult in a farmer’s life.

A reticent but thoughtful Suresh, who is assistant professor of painting, has proved how as an educator he views art through viewer’s perspective and hence employs techniques that don’t come with artistic baggage, but can be inferred as a message that needs to be viewed and decoded
intelligently.

His students helped him to put up the exhibition, and when they saw what their mentor was doing, they all asked him one question “Sir, kuch toh likha hota... kuch sense banta.” This exhibition is very unlike Suresh, yet it for those who think alike.

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