When an Indian author, researcher, environmentalist photographer and video installation artiste combines with a French artiste who has been developing sculpture and photography for 20 years, then the alchemy is one of deeply-driven stirrings. Bon Jour India’s unveiling of The Familiar is always a stranger at Gallery Espace – something of chimerical context and meticulous notions of absorbing images from peregrination across the world.
French genius Francois Daireaux straddles many realms away from the notion of exoticism, focussing on gestures, objects and the passage of time revealing unsuspected layers of reality. Daireaux has been travelling to Indian cities, shooting and creating a mosaic of moments on film. One of his videos zooms in on a manual worker cutting scraps of textiles – the repetition, the assortment of colours, prints and the motion of the act about it has added an ethnic tonality that makes us think about human acts of wastage.
Indeed, the artiste develops an art of installation conceived from experiences and materials brought back from his multiple travels and wanderings around the world. His way-faring around the world makes us move. He apprehends human activity, he looks at the world and gives us his vision. Thus, the world becomes his studio. “Wandering allows me to explore several possibilities that are then felt in my works that move along the tracing of capturing the plastic patterns,” he explains.
His video films of the Yamuna, composed of multiple visits and sequences, immerses the spectator in a myriad images, closing in on the repetitive gestures and hypnotic rhythm of manual workers. Echoing these videos are his blown-up photographs and stunning panoramas of Indianesque splendour. His lone installation strewn across the floor actually looks like granite stones – you look closer and it’s a resin like substance – jet black and you see remnants of little metallic junk jewels that glisten like bric a brac. “Augustine,” says Daireux, “This is what Augustine brings out everytime he dives into the river bed of the Yamuna.” While you look at the installation and the evocative photograph of the bridge on the Yamuna, the way he correlates entities and the scale of his imagination seem endless.
Ravi Aggarwal, the cerebral aesthete known for ecological conversations, drew attention at Kochi Biennale. At the Espace, his films Neithal and Pounds Per Square Inch profess philosophies that have gone through a gestation period of silence.
Gothic darkness and the sound of the sea – you must choose which one you want to listen to or gaze at, immersing yourself in the nether realms of sangam poetry or Ravi’s jottings from his diary. “I discovered sangam poetry while speaking to a Tamil poetess,” says Ravi, “I was thinking of how people imagined nature before the advent of modern ideas, or pre-modernity.”
Sangam poetry was written between 300 BC and 300 AD and very little of it survives today. “In fact, I was told that earlier eras of sangam poetry had not survived the passage of time. Within sangam is akam poetry, which is about human interiority, relating to nature and its landscapes. For example, Neithel Sangam poetry is about the sea and the idea of longing, waiting and pining for loved ones to return. It somehow fuses the subject-object duality we have come to accept today – that nature is something outside us. These ancient subject-object ideas of man and nature complicate this relationship. We are not nature but we are also nature. We are non-dual, yet we have duality,” Ravi tells us.
The piece de resistance, however, is Ravi’s memorabilia – a series of nine prints of objects picked up by trash pickers from large garbage sites. “They pick out these small objects filled with rust, absolute elements of ruin and decadence and they just place it wherever they sit. I took these photographs and when I put it together it was like a revelation.”
The suite of nine photographs is an incisive passion and expressive wastage – they mirror the very bedrock of poverty. The objects reveal the exotic, the unconscious and the paradox of lifestyle contradictions.
“The artiste’s community is a free one,” states Ravi, “We have a responsibility. I believe that art has to locate itself in contemporary times. Artistes have a role which is very powerful in today’s world. Sometimes we don’t recognise our own power,” he adds.
Ravi and Daireaux bring together Indian cultures that share traditions and face local crisis. The “imprints” resulting from the fusion of their respective techniques invite the viewers to reflect on our globalised lifestyles, while the films bring us face-to-face with the stark reality of India in the modern millennium.
Bon Jour India taps our inner indices to keep us thinking. The project touches on broad issues that are more topical than ever, i.e. the globalisation of mass production, working conditions to produce objects sold at low prices in the West, and the flow of goods and, through them, of cultures. By moving, transforming and recreating objects, Francois Daireaux fosters new exchanges with different modalities.