After nine years artist-curator Bose Krishnamachari returns with a solo show, The Mirror Sees Best in the Dark, at the Emami Art Centre in Kolkata, which is reflective of the country’s dark times, a reminder of India’s descent into chaos and anarchy.
The seven large-scale works, conceptualised and created over two years, uses several mediums such as stone, paper, graphite, ceramic and mirror, stressing Bose’s belief that art is an amalgamation of different kinds of practices—performative, architecture and digital. From the placement of the works to the materials used and the numbers – nine works, ten words – every aspect of the work tells something, and together, makes for a detailed, deep, thought-provoking narrative.
Bose employs the extremes of minimalism and maximalism, drawn from his life and India. Each symbolised by the use of Braille and multi-material artworks that confront the increasingly extreme discourses that shape our consciousness. “In Bose’s handling, these discourses crystallise around keywords that then become slogans, deployed in witch-hunts and debased debates that characterise a polarised society.
Bose explores the thresholds at which potentially unifying concepts like nationalism can become unhealthy obsessions, dividing the world into Us and Them, injecting toxicity into collective life,” says Ranjit Hoskote in his descriptive note of the exhibition.
Bose uses ten words—fascism, narcissism, religion, capitalism, nationalism, regionalism, chauvinism, technology, casteism and god in different settings, compelling his viewers to think of the impact these words have on our society today. “These have completely reshaped my lifetime,” says Bose.
He carves these on a huge graphite stone, sourced from Kerala, as in the 10 Commandments. “When you conceptualise something, you take numbers, like in the Ten Commandments from the Bible. “Today, we obsess over these words, are addicted to it and overpowered by our or someone else’s obsession.” For his work titled Obsession, Bose creates a dramatic sanctum sanctorum of these words. Inside the room, each word is framed in an elaborately carved, golden teakwood frame. The artist here, once again, mocks our obsession with these words, values and beliefs that have bought unrest to the nation.
Then the 9 Rasas and One Soft Cut, made of nine ornamental teak wood carved panels that reflect in the mirror beneath with a saw installed upon it, stresses on the glorification of these values. The architecture of the panels makes one draw inferences from Mahabharata’s Indraprastha, Maya Nagri (Or the city of illusion), reminding the viewers the perils of spaces, and let me add, messages so beautiful and venerated. When in Indraprastha, the Pandavas’ cousin and arch enemy Duryodhan falls into a pool of water, he couldn’t see and is made fun of by Pandavas’ wife Draupadi. Duryodhan vows to destroy the palace of illusions and his cousins.
In the main work of the exhibition titled Mirror Sees Best in The Dark, Bose uses mirror, the ultimate symbol of reflection and erects nine panels of Aranmula mirrors (hand-made metal alloy mirrors made in Aranmula, Kerala) “When you travel in Mumbai late evening, you see reflections of hoardings and banners on water, which create different images and dimensions,” says Bose. They, however, go unnoticed by most. Bose urges his viewers to see carefully, to reflect, to be sensitive to what is happening and to distant oneself from obsessions that polarise our society.
— The show continues until March 10.