“My Hands Smell Of You”

“We need to be first moved by beauty. For then love is aroused”*

In our commodity culture, “nature” and the tourism industry are said to be the fastest growing economic forces in the world today. This has not only transformed our understanding of the world but has also remarkably informed our attitudes towards other lands, cultures, peoples, their flora and fauna, often creating little worlds within us. But there is also a homogenizing effect that shrinks these worlds, standardizes our experiences, leveling our cultural sensitivities and differences, prioritizing moral obligations towards ‘our’ and ‘their’ environments and as a result, offering us a simulated, biased, unreal and constructed world of pre-digested experiences and flat images, a numbing sameness; an inability to sense or feel deeply; a dulling of the senses.

Resistance to this homogeneity and a craving for ‘real’ experience [if there can be one], is also catered to and carefully constructed by this industry, that our ability to transcend such leveling perhaps lies in our own gaze; a gaze of heightened awareness, a mind conscious of its own cognition. An awareness that informs us about the concept called “nature” that recuperates our desire for wild adventure, for life free from domestication, by selling us its image; to remind us that there exists no place called ‘untouched’ in this “nature”; that as civilized human beings we come to understand and control “natural” processes and the “wildness” in us in order to use them to expand our “civilization” and sell us its products. The dominant image of ‘nature’ as a resource and a thing of beauty to be contemplated and studied, ‘Wilderness’ as a place to which one can retreat for a short time, if properly outfitted, to escape from the humdrum of daily urban life, to relax and meditate or to find excitement and adventure. Yet, the staple stock of unmoving, standardized images of this ‘mother’ in pain, violated and ravaged, haunts us more than what they intend to present and their appeal and affect often fail to extend beyond the realm of formal aesthetics. One could then argue that this is as much an aesthetic crisis as it is social, cultural, economic or environmental.

This exhibition is an attempt to explore and investigate the complexities between ‘us’ and ‘our’ environment, the inter-connectedness of every facet of our lives and to identify the far reaching implications of our everyday choices, with a greater emphasis on aesthetics as a counter point to alarming statistics. Using various materials including electronic waste, [a detritus that immediately identifies itself as one of the many ‘spill-overs’ of the ‘great economic boom’ we have witnessed in recent times and one that has increasingly become a huge environmental crisis today in India, with the added problem of e-waste dumping from developed countries] and soap, a product we use everyday to ‘cleanse’ ourselves, I have attempted to posit a tenuous embrace between the pressures to progress fast in a technological and consumerist fashion resulting in these mountains of waste and a desperate cry for slowing down. To see through a ‘forest’ of wires and ‘mountains’ of waste, to smell the last gasping breath of red earth still exuding fragrance, to see migrating elephants and singing birds that seem to disappear sooner from the ‘forests of the mind’ than in the ‘wild’; to create an affect through tangible forms and olfactory stimuli that I hope will resonate with the audiences for long, because after all it seems like Art is perhaps our last resort for being human.

Krishnaraj Chonat.

*“Aesthetics and Politics” [City and Soul] -- James Hillman.

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