Landscape is a simple word. But what we mean by landscape depends on whose landscape it is we mean. Is it the artist’s, who abstracts its visual clues into compositions of colour and form? Or the geographer’s who maps its topography and boundaries? Or the geologist’s, who profiles its soil? Or is it perhaps that of the community which forges a permanent alliance with it through many kinds of activity?
An answer…of sorts…lies in the quotation from Emerson’s essay, Nature, with which Experimenter prefaces its note on Sanchayan Ghosh’s current show (until February 15). “The charming landscape” the American thinker saw was, he wrote, made up of several farms but none of the owners owned “the landscape”. Because the “property in the horizon” could be possessed only by him “whose eye can integrate all the parts….” And that eye was the poet’s. This expansiveness of the poetic vision, this integration of diverse approaches, going beyond the jealous straitjacket of separate disciplines, is what Ghosh seeks to conceptualize by altering — or reversing — the linear perspective common to most Western art in Reversed Perspective: 3 Conjunctions, which has a jargonistic tag line that says, An Interdisciplinary Architectural Intervention on Landscape Study.
But wait. ‘Show’ did we say? Ghosh, who is known for site-specific installations and performances involving, particularly, communities from marginalized, often conflict, regions is, indeed, having a show... of sorts. But what you must be prepared for is the immersive experience of a concept.
The layout of the gallery encouraged the artist to work out a physical correlative to reverse perspective since it opens out after a narrow entry passage. But the framework he erected within compels viewers to negotiate carefully the space demarcated into three segments: the three conjunctions. Particularly because it’s lit to a dim, eye-straining red as in photography labs but layers other suggestions, too.
This show is about Ghosh’s engagement with farming communities in Birbhum, reflected in freewheeling workshops that illuminate their relationship with the environment through role-playing, memory, religio-cultural expressions and sounds, both natural and human. Tall screens, coated with photosensitive chemicals and exposed to light, capture the silhouettes of such performances to record the fluid passage from their presence to the shadow of their absence through a process labelled “shadow casting”. But the live element must be counterpointed with material data collected scientifically, the second conjunction. Lab paraphernalia, soil samples, documents and diagrams on the wall compose an installation of chaotic order that essays a convergence of rational analysis and the creative impetus invested in myths, lore, poems, music, theatre. Finally, the notion of the landscape as the physical experience of an enclosed space is reserved for the claustrophobic third segment, to the disorientation of the viewer.
Ghosh’s presentation, ephemeral in every sense, thus critiques art shows in general. Interrogating art as an alienable material object of commerce, what it ultimately proposes, through a symbiosis with such fraught issues as marginalized communities and land, is an evolving conversation. About art as an inclusive vision of society.