by Dilpreet BhullarDec 03, 2022
In his most recent solo exhibition at GallerySke in New Delhi, Indian contemporary artist, Sudarshan Shetty is presenting Age of Love, an immersive installation. The artwork ties together film and sound, while using physical elements to create engagement with the spatial dimension as well. The Mumbai-based artist spoke with STIR about the installation - of love, loss and music.
Age of Love is presented at Ske in Shetty’s eighth solo exhibition with the gallery. The artwork was created in 2018 but is being showcased to the public for the first time. It contemplates the experience of love, considering that it is constantly in danger of being lost forever. Shetty asks, “Love cannot exist without an impending sense of its loss. The question really is - can love and its loss be mutually contained within a singular space of experience?” Without a sense of its mortality or finiteness, do we really appreciate love? Do we lose sight of how precious it is when we believe it is unconditional or limitless? Shetty creates an installation which invokes inward reflection. He says, “My work does not carry a message. I try to employ a strategy that allows for an open-ended response and at times can be eminently interpretative in nature. That each viewer of the work can take away a piece of experience that must be personal, and ideally, one that evokes an area within each one of them, that is based upon their own varied experiences of the world.”
The installation presents a space for viewers to immerse and engage. The setting is mildly absurdist, with a perfectly normal setting including a dining table and chairs, interrupted by a large chandelier fallen upon it. The setting to me signifies interruption, interference, a plan that went awry. The artist tells us, “As you enter the gallery space you will see the broken chandelier on the table. Frozen in the way it crashes in the video. This creates an inversion in the idea of ‘suspense’ or an expectation of what is to come – that is often used as a tool within the convention of a narrative story telling. As one can see the crash in its frozen physical form, the crash on screen may not come as a surprise.”
He goes on to add, “I wanted to create a familiar yet an unfamiliar setting. A dining table and the chair and the chandelier was found from the flea market in Mumbai to construct a reminder of a familiar domestic space, that is placed within a once thriving and now abandoned tobacco factory in Mumbai. The filming tools are revealed and made obvious. Like the use of artificial lighting and the continuously circling camera around the performers, was to stress on the ‘staged’ and yet transient nature of the subject.”
Creating the film was the most challenging part of developing this installation. The artist says, “It has been in my notebook of ideas for a few years before it was realised for an event in 2018. Once we managed to complete shooting, the challenge was really on the editing table to create a narrative that is fundamentally experiential, with as minimal use of devices as possible and to be able to stay close to the spirit of the action and the performances.” The featured performers were picked by the artist, and several were known to him previously as well. The intention of the film, for Shetty, was to create an experiential sensation, rather than take the viewer on a linear journey. This further establishes his desire to create an open-ended concept.
The installation is accompanied by music, paying tribute to the fine art of Hindustani Classical. The sound score adds an additional dimension of emotional depth, with music serving as a universal language of love. Shetty says, “Age of Love is a coming together of six songs of love from the vast repertoire of Classical Hindustani music. Six vocal practitioners across generations sing an old composition each and make it their own. A primal human need to express love, as it slips away though the fingers every time one tries to grasp it with reason and logic, is brought into focus. The moving image and sound here in some way strives to achieve a sense of loss through an abundance of images that are contained in the lyrics of these songs. This is to say that it's not necessarily an exploration into my own or of the performers' personal experiences of love, which I believe, could be limited in this context.” Shetty aims to convey an expansive notion of love, one which is inclusive and therefore relatable. The artist notes, “Whether it’s the ‘calling of the cuckoo’ or the ‘ringing of the anklet’ which may reveal a certain ‘longing’. It is interesting that the use of the word “love’ does not occur even once in all these six songs.”
The exhibition was inaugurated on April 22 and continues to be on view until June 26, 2022.