by Sukanya GargSep 04, 2019
The anecdotes on the twist of fate, more often than not, set the course of the long human history. The Greek gods and goddess undoubtedly stand tall at the victory dais when it comes to both happy and tragic coincidences. When the title of an exhibition is Games of Chance, the viewers, at least for once, would draw a reference to the ubiquitous popular TV-series Game of Thrones. The exhibition remotely close to the obvious parallel with the term ‘chance’ plays with the labyrinth of luck and misfortune. When the logics and calculations fall apart, the decentred human subject at the razor-sharp edge of chaos is left fragile.
The forthcoming group exhibition Games of Chance at Sunaparanta - Goa Centre for the Arts, curated by Leandre D'Souza, invites 25 artists to provide the viewers an insight into the mysteries of randomness. For 12 years now, Sunaparanta - Goa Centre for the Arts, founded by Dipti and Dattaraj Salgaocar with Isheta Salgaocar, as patron and programmes advisor, is dedicated towards enriching art and culture in the western coastal state of India.
Over 20 artists – 12 of which are women – and seven galleries from across the country have come together to present this show, produced by the Salgaocars. The diversity of the group of artists, working with the mediums including video, sculpture, painting, photography and performance, accentuates the experience of what lies in the moment of chance. Each of the participating artists acutely raises questions on the precarious human actions when it comes to gender insensitivity, violation of the human rights, or ecological imbalance.
To address the situation of chaos, closer home, inevitably, the historical account of the 1947 partition of Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan is a pertinent one. The presence of the artists Nalini Malani and Atul Bhalla establishes the same. The artwork In Search of Vanished Blood – III by Nalini Malani takes its title from the poem Lahoo ka Suragh by Faiz Ahmad Faiz. The influences of the novel Cassandra by Christa Wolf and the 1910 book The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke do not seem to go unnoticed. The third in the series of In Search of Vanished Blood, the artwork looks into the Greek mythology and Indian political history to show how the principles of economic and military override the communal harmony and nature’s beauty.
Atul Bhalla’s installation, titled The lowest depths: Objects of fictitious togetherness-I, also refers to the world of partitioned India in turmoil and despair. The elements of river and water are still essential to the land of Punjab as they were in the pre-independence period. His work falls back to the source of memory, post-memory and truth as an effort to draw local meaning on the water and its significance to the identity-building exercise for the first and following generations of 1947 partition.
Interestingly, the curator of the exhibition, Leandre D'Souza, draws references to the discipline of mathematics and philosophy to reinforce the immediacy of chaos if what Claudius Ptolemy or Epicurus claimed would have been true. She explains, “Ptolemy, the mathematician who theorised that planets orbit in circles called epicycles and when he referenced the epicycle orbiting Earth, his calculations revealed a funny looping or backward motion. It seemed like there was a pause and then a move backward in space. What does this mean? In this moment when the planets seem to move (but they don’t actually) in reverse, how does it affect Earth and more importantly, us? Is there some kind of turmoil that will soon erupt?”
To further draw home the meaning of chance and its mysteries, D’Souza adds, “The philosopher Epicurus argued that when atoms moved, there were instances where they started to swerve and deviate from their predetermined paths. This, in turn, led to random or chance encounters that would result in unforeseen and illogical outcomes. It is true that without the swerve, nothing happens-whether good or bad, destructive or productive. But what are the implications of ‘randomness’? Does free will play a part in this deviation? What is the risk quotient that is involved? Do actions have any repercussions? And can the encounter with the unfamiliar be turned into a field of investigation?”
For the viewers, given the eclectic group of participating artists and the wide range of mediums, D’Souza says, “the works act as guides, providing us with tools or learnings on how to navigate the conflict between our inner selves and the outside world. What the works do is to provide an entry, a sort of door that opens inwards - encouraging an introspection into human nature (faults and all) while also allowing for possibilities for redemption.”
When the algorithmic logic of social media steers the human relationship and decisive calculations of politics sail set the nations’ populations, the humans are indulging in high risk of behavioural aberrations and deviations from the human emotions. The exhibition is a ‘chance’ to take a pause and gauge what lies beyond the apparent rationale of a human mind.
The exhibition opens on January 17, 2020, and concludes on March 27, 2020, at Sunaparanta - Goa Centre for the Arts, Goa.