Borders are perhaps one of the most powerful and long-living characters in human history. Some of the bloodiest conflicts have been fought over boundaries: to move, to cancel or to create them. Despite the venerable age, this character is fully alive and vibrant; it never rests and it keeps influencing all the aspects of human life – from relations between governments down to the thoughts of immigrants – desperately moving towards the hope of a better existence.
Whenever the border changes a new map is drawn and the boundary becomes an aseptic black line on a cartographic document, often artificial or subject to political manipulations. There is a lot behind that line though, something that a simple map cannot represent. There are thoughts, emotional reactions, feelings and humans. All elements that classical cartography cannot describe generate an incomplete narration of spaces.
The exhibition “The Lay of the Land: A Work in Progress”, curated by Anushka Rajendran and hosted by the art gallery Latitude 28 in Lado Sarai till 22 September, aims to take the first step in filling this gap. The exhibition collects the work of South Asian artists from India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. The attempt is to create an alternative cartography of the region, not based on geographical borders but on lived realities and the personal responses of artists in front of the limiting nature of classical geographical representation.
Borders exists and are imposed only to humans, reminds artist Sarika Mehta with her images of birds whose flight is not hindered at all by geographical boundaries. Maps are tools, useful but not complete and they cannot tell stories like the one depicted by the artist Kedar Dhondu who paints faces and portraits of the Konkani-speaking community of the Siddhis of African origins, brought to Goa as slaves and living now in Karnataka.
Giving his take on the issue through artistic impression, Pakistani artist Imran Channa challenges the alleged neutrality of official representations, considered by him often as a result of a political choice. He uses graphite to erase pictures, destroying complexity and tri-dimensionality in order to show how easy it is to manipulate and reduce the representation of reality to a single plan.
“The idea behind the exhibition is to challenge the nature of the representation itself. A bi-dimensional map is not enough to represent a place and its shades. This is especially true in a moment and in a region like South Asia, where borders are playing such an important role,” says the curator.
Sri Lankan artist Pala Pothupitiye focuses on the aseptic aspect of maps and he makes them come alive by focusing on the city maps of Jaffna and Colombo, redrawn with traditional elements of the communities living there, their colonial history and their conflicts.
“The show is just a starting point, a work in progress. It is still not complete and it will probably never be completed,” specifies curator Anushka Rajendran, fully aware of the enormity of work that lies behind the choice of narrating politically active geographical area through impressions and reactions of its artists. Such a narration is, indeed, potentially infinite.
The originial article by Daniele Pagani can be viewed here.