Two billion years ago, cyanobacteria oxygenated the atmosphere and powerfully disrupted life on Earth. But they didn’t know it. Two thousand years ago, Romans aggravated soil erosion and flooding by cutting forests to build ships to fight Carthaginians. They didn’t know it either. Quite unintentionally, changes in human ways often affect nonhuman nature. The arrival of the automobile, for instance, eliminated huge flocks of sparrows that once fed on the horse manure littering every street. To create a world means to destroy one or many, to transform the cosmological dimensions of being-in-the-world.
We are the first species that has become a planet-scale influence and is aware of that reality. We have learnt that the historically accumulated, global environmental effects of a growing human population, technological innovation, and economic development have become inseparable from the Earth’s geoprocesses. We have entered an epoch unlike any in human history, say scientists – the Anthropocene, where the climate is tipping out of control due to mining, deforestation and the burning of oil, gas and coal. We have begun to understand our influence upon nature but we now need to learn how to restore our balance with nature.
What are the roots of our environmental crisis? Are we aware that human ecology is primarily conditioned by religious beliefs about our nature and destiny? American historian Lynn White denounced Christianity, especially in its Western form, as the most anthropocentric religion the world has seen. Christianity inherited from Judaism not only a concept of linear, cumulative and progressive time, but also a remarkable story of creation, with God creating light and darkness, the heavenly bodies, the earth and all its plants, animals, birds, and fishes, then Adam and Eve. Man named all the animals, thus establishing his supremacy over them. God planned all of this overtly for man's benefit and rule: no item in the physical creation had any other purpose but to serve man's purposes. And, even if man's body is made of clay, he is not part of nature: he is made in God's image. Christianity, in contrast to ancient paganism and Asia's religions, not only established a dualism of man and nature but also insisted that it is God's will that man exploits nature for his proper ends. Furthermore, in Antiquity every tree, every spring, every hill had its own genius loci, its guardian spirit: centaurs, fauns, and mermaids. Before cutting a tree, mining a mountain, or damming a stream, man had to pacify the spirit in charge. By destroying pagan animism, Christianity made it possible to exploit nature without any concern for consequences.
Of course, we live now in a different, scientifically advanced age, but the essence of our acts and thinking often remains incredibly similar to that of the past. Our daily habits of action, for example, are dominated by an implicit faith in perpetual progress which was unknown either to Greco-Roman antiquity, or to the Orient. It is rooted in the Judeo-Christian theology, which proves that we continue to live today mostly in a context of Christian axioms. Our science and technology have also developed out of Christian attitudes toward man's understanding of nature, from Roger Bacon and Galileo, to Leibniz and Newton. Buddhism and Eastern spirituality in general promote a more holistic worldview, based on the concepts of interdependence and impermanence, which could provide a valuable source for addressing the interconnected problems of the current age. From its origins in India about 500 years before the birth of Christ, Buddhism spread throughout Asia and is now exerting an ever-increasing influence on Western culture. Idealists such as Schopenhauer, Romantics like Thoreau, the composer Wagner, architect and social reformer Rudolf Steiner and the artist Joseph Beyus – all acknowledged the influence of Buddhism upon their work and thought.
Interdependence refers to the idea of ‘oneness of nature’, with every being and every aspect of reality reflecting and containing all others within it. The concept is vividly conveyed through the well-known image of Indra‘s Net with a jewel at each node, metaphorically portraying the universe as an infinite relational field of phenomena and entities. As the author of the term ‘interbeing’, the Vietnamese Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh said: “When we look at a flower, we may think it is different from non-flower things. But when we look more deeply, we see that everything in the cosmos is in that flower. Without all of the non-flower elements - sunshine, clouds, earth, minerals, heat, rivers and consciousness - a flower cannot be.” Organisms are just configurations of energy, moments in a network of relationships, knots in a web of life. The doctrine of impermanence affirms the transience of all phenomena and, implicitly, as contemporary ecologists and philosophers agree, the nature’s state of constant flux rather than stable equilibrium. Since Darwin, it has been understood that flexibility and receptivity to change define all natural beings and that all species are subject to mutation at any time.
Are we, subsequently, prepared to radically rethink our deeply inbuilt spiritual axioms and explore alternative paradigms? To consider pivotal questions about our global impact as a species and re-imagine ways of being-with-the-world and being-on-earth? Then we have to (re)sensitize ourselves to the ground beneath our feet, the trees around us, and the stars above first.
Simona Nastac, residency and exhibition curator
Lochan Upadhyay looks at himself as a wanderer, working in different mediums to explore his fascination for everyday objects and images that represents the socio-cultural politics of a place. Working with a nomadic aesthetics he primarily works with formats such as installations, sculptures and public art projects shaped by instances of human consumption, excess and disregard.
His works have been exhibited at Tel Aviv Museum of Contemporary Art(Israel), Art Plural Gallery (Singapore), Gallery Albert Benamou (Paris), Tamrind Arts Council (New York), Pundole Art Gallery (Mumbai) etc. He has also participated in reputed international residencies like Kunstverein Bellevue-Saal, Wiesbaden, Germany (2013), Extrapool + Sandarbh, Nijmegen, Netherlands (2011), Abiko International artists residency, Japan (2011), YATOO International Residency, South Korea (2011) and Bangalore Artist Centre, Bangalore, India (2009).
One of his projects Power of Cloth was selected for Public Art Award by Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art in 2008 and was shortlisted by International Award for Public Art. He is also working as a coordinating artist for Sandarbh Artist residency program, India since 2003.
Lochan did his graduation (BFA, 2005) and post graduation (MFA, 2009) in Painting from MSU, Baroda, India. He currently lives and works between Baroda and Partapur.
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Histograms of an anxious present: ‘Imp in the garden and other fairy tales'
All of us carry, within ourselves, a generic notion of everyday normality. Like the reassuring background thrum of the tanpura, it allows us to cope with the scintillations and percussions of a demanding life, to average out the peaks and troughs of experience.
From the standpoint of such a normality, both perfection and the freak, the prodigy and the monster, the shimmer of beauty and the horror of mutancy are hazardous departures: they can plunge us either into fantasia or into nightmare. In their suite of mixed-media works, 'Imp in the Garden and Other Fairy Tales', Sanjeev Khandekar and Vaishali Narkar address these extremes head-on, to produce captivating entanglements between beauty and mutancy. The effect of these works is rather like that of a Zen koan: we are shocked into a deep awareness of the complexities that underwrite our current historical horizon.
Khandekar and Narkar have chosen the form of embroidery as their key medium, deploying its various avatars, drawing on the skills of numerous collaborators to structure their images. However, these images are not drawn from the traditional vocabularies of to which their artisanal colleagues are habituated. Rather, they emerge from the debates that shape our existence in epic-scale but also invisible ways: they allude to the human costs of ecological catastrophe, genetic manipulation, cellular and molecular engineering, and biological warfare. It is as though the micro-structure of the stitch, the basic unit of embroidery, were being re-fitted to serve the purposes of the microscopic vision and the nano-diagram. As the embroidery builds up, the effect is that of a dense, cumulative palimpsest, seen to advantage in low light: as layer is accreted upon layer, we observe how the threads and knots have been wrought and figured into elaborate, low-relief compositions, histograms of an anxious present.
The eponymous figure who gives his name to this exhibition, 'Imp in the Garden', refers to the chance of mutation that can disrupt the imagined bower of serene predictabilities: it refers to recessive genes that spring up without warning, to chemical prompts that can destabilise a sequence of hereditary transfer, to moments of saltation that spike the settled pace of evolution. In consonance with this emphasis on mutation, 'Imp in the Garden' is a richly layered project that holds our several bold proposals for a renewal of artistic practice. I would read it through the triple optic of research, design and the studio.
At the level of research, it has involved an extensive exploration of material across fields such as genetics, photography, embroidery, and teratology, and across such diverse venues as the archive, the antiquarian collection, the used-clothes warehouse and the internet. At the level of design, it has been sustained by a meticulous, painstaking and heuristic process of material choice, testing and prototyping. And at the level of the studio, we find that Khandekar and Narkar have developed a 'doing-space' that is part research laboratory, part workshop, and part school. They have not simply made use of existing skills; instead, even as they have learned from their weaver colleagues, they have engaged in dialogue with them, training them in new languages of image-making, encouraging them towards nontraditional responses to colour, texture and form. This suite of works, 'Imp in the Garden', is vital and refreshing as much for its formal experimentation as for the innovative methodology by which it has been conjured into being.
Shilpa Rangnekar is an Indian conceptual artist working with a multidisciplinary approach for socially engaged art and research practices. She is particularly interested in observations of everyday life and associated behaviors, which either comes out in the form of utilitarian Art, food performances or very expressive and engaging community oriented projects.
Since 2010, Shilpa has been working as a coordinating artist for Sandarbh-a context for experimenting with artistic processes, and exploring new modalities of viewership and public participation in art. This involvement has helped her develop projects in collaboration with communities based on dialogical and participatory practice. One of her recent project, Equilibrium in 2014 was supported by Creative Encounters: A cultural partnership between Asia and Europe, and allowed a rich cultural exchange between 10 artists from Asia and Europe.
Shilpa has travelled extensively and participated in several residency programs in Germany, South Korea, and India and recently at the Bemis Centre for Contemporary Arts (USA) in 2015 under the thematic residency of Future of Food.
Shilpa has tremendous experience of working in close collaboration with artists in supporting and developing projects. Currently she is also working as a Program Director at Space Studio, Vadodara designing a robust program for artists.
She has post graduated from Hyderabad Central University in 2008 with MVA in Painting and holds a BFA in Painting from M.S.U, Baroda in 2005.
Shilpa lives and works in Baroda (Gujarat), India.
Silvia Amancei and Bogdan Armanu are an artist couple living and activating in the city of Iasi,Romania. They graduated BA (2013) and MA (2015) studies at “George Enescu” University of Arts (Faculty of Visual Art and Design) in Iasi. In the past, the artist duo has participated at several international alternative education programs: “Autumn School. The 3 s: the space, the social and the sensorium” at University of Applied Arts (2016, Vienna, Austria), “Summer School for Engaged Art”, project developed by “Chto Delat?” artistic group at Rosa-Luxemburg Foundation (2015, Berlin, Germany).
Their artistic practice could be positioned at the border between social studies and visual art, researching for methods and examples where art and artistic means can be instrumentalized in order to overexcite the ability to look beyond capitalism and create a (common) future. Working together since 2012, the two artists have materialized a series of solo exhibitions, exploring / analyzing / deconstructing / decomposing the paradigm of life exploitation: “What Past? What Future?” (2017, Linz, Austria), “When atoms collide and disturb entropy” (2017, Craiova, Romania), “Return to Spaceship Earth” (2017, Bucharest, Romania), “Talking about the Future” (2017, Cluj-Napoca, Romania), “Depresion, Uncertainty and other symptoms of Mortality” (2016, Lodz, Poland), “In Search for Causes and Realities” (2016, Iasi, Romania), “Clinical Architectures for a Compositionist Future (Part II)” (2016, Iasi, Romania), “Constellations of Desires” (2016, Iasi,Romania), “(No)Future” (2015, Eckernforde, Germany), “No Hope For a Future” (2015, Iasi, Romania), “Metropia” (2014, Iasi, Romania).Their works have been present in numerous collective exhibitions from which the most noteworthy are: “Odessa Biennial” (2017, Odessa, Ukraine), ” Ways of using absence ” (2017, Timisoara, Romania),“Non-Fictions” (2016, Bucharest, Romania), “BIDEODROMO. International Experimental Film and Video Festival” (2016, Bilbao, Spain), “After Eden” (2016, Budapest, Hungary), “Video Art Festival Miden” (2016, Kalamata, Greece), “In Times of Hope and Unrest” (2015, Bucharest, Romania) “Between Democracies 1989-2014”, (2015, Johannesburg, South Africa), “Appearance & Essence”,1 st Timisoara Art Encounters Biennale (2015, Timisoara, Romania), “Visualcontainer TV”, 28 th Instant Video Festival (2015, Marseille, France), “CLOSE-UP” (2015, Prague, Czech Republic), “Working Title” (2014, Sf. Gheorghe, Romania), “It already happened again” (2013, Iasi, Romania).
In the past, the artists have been accepted to several artist-in-residence programs at “warehouse.industries” (2017, digital residency) “Domino Contemporary Art Space“, (2017, Cluj-Napoca, Romania), “Wschodnia Gallery” (2016, Lodz, Poland), “Club Electroputere” (2016, Craiova, Romania), “quartier21 / Museums Quartier”, (2015, Vienna, Austria), “Otte 1, Kunstlerhaus”, (2015, Eckernforde, Germany), “Timisoara Art Encounters Biennial” (2015, Timisoara, Romania), and had video works commissioned by “Salonul de proiecte” (2017, Bucharest, Romania), “CAMERA PLUS. Biennial of contemporary photography and moving image” (2016, Iasi, Romania), “ArtycoK.tv” (2015, Prague, Czech Republic).
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