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Deep wounds inflicted by the lockdown

The artist replaces sigh with satire, turning tragedy into a theatre of the absurd
 An artwork by Anjan Modak.

Rita Datta   |     |   Published 19.09.20, 12:09 AM

When the unplanned lockdown was announced here on a 4-hour notice, it triggered impossibly long marches of migrant labourers to their villages. And conscientious artists were quick to voice their protest in unambiguous tones. Unambiguous, but not weepy. Hence, when Anjan Modak depicted the Fragmented Life of migrants in Emami Art’s online show, he replaced sigh with satire, turning tragedy into a theatre of the absurd: the absurd irony of homeless construction workers building homes for others while drifting through numerous makeshift dwellings themselves.  

In Modak’s portrayal, little houses are piled into sacks like toys for sale, or bundled and parked on the head like the meagre belongings migrants trudge with. Minute graphite lines on their clothes recall the signature patterns of Gond art, making them look dull and threadbare, bodies doubled up or contorted into acrobatic postures. Migration, housing and even the pandemic are, in fact, part of the same problem, he seems to suggest: the reckless environmental degradation that turns the earth into a Piece of Wounded Land.

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