LANDSCAPE AND FALL
An installation by Shefalee Jain
'Landscape and fall' is one of the outcomes of my practice based research in Visual Art from the School of Culture and Creative Expressions, AUD, 2014-18. My research takes on an interrogation of liberal values of self sufficiency and ability through a critical engagement with imageries of modernity and contemporary visual culture in India. While I have addressed this theoretically and historically through scholarly research in the form of a written document titled 'The Phantasmagoria of Normalcy: Art practice as an exploration of modern visual imagery of self-sufficiency and ability'; I explore the same on a more affective register through my artistic practice in the form of an installation titled 'Landscape and Fall.'
The installation is comprised of thirteen tableaux placed in an orchestrated sonic and visual environment. It deliberately collides together the forms of diorama/theme park/school project/freak show/fairground in its execution and display. It as an environment suspended in between multiple co ordinates. The material I have used in order to construct each tableau in the installation, is largely comprised of readymade 3D building puzzles cheaply available as educational toys for children. The tableaux these would typically build are ‘Warm Villa’, ‘National Bird’, ‘National Monument’, ‘Happy Family’, ‘Fashion shop’, ‘Wonder Land’. I have replaced many of the pieces of these puzzles and redesigned the tableaux, introducing in them images from the archive I have been building during the research period; images from contemporary advertisements targeted at children, history of optical instruments, illustrated encyclopedias about the human body for children and my own drawings among other things. The protagonists in these redesigned tableaux are the mother, the doctor and the child who I see as the three principal subjects (both in the sense of agent and subjected) within the neoliberal context we inhabit. The attempt is to mimic in a miniature toy-world format, the landscape of normalcy and thereby to make uncanny the normative that this phantasmagoria helps reiterate.
The research centers on the motif of a falling figure of a school going child and the landscape of normalcy against which this falling is reduced to a single meaning - that of failure. I try to posit the fall, as a generative site that can emerge even in the midst of the seductive hold of the founding stones of neoliberal capital such as the modern family, the school, the museum, the trade fair, the mall and the theme park; a potentiality in the thick of a landscape tailored to support only those who 'stand tall'. I envisage the fall as a ‘bordering’- neither as the infallibility of the erect standing figure nor the failure of the fallen, but perhaps as a moment when falling/falling out of step compels one to reflect. Through this research I try to search for the polytonality of the fall, to pull it out of a binary understanding of ability/disability. My attempt is to reveal it as locked in a particular face-landscape correlation which relegates it to a singular meaning of failure but also to perhaps wrest it from this landscape or to try and dismantle the landscape itself to set other meanings of falling afloat.
Acknowledgements: I would like to thank Ambedkar University Delhi for hosting and making possible this event. I would also like to thank my PhD Advisory Committee, Professor Shivaji Panikkar, Dr. Shukla Sawant, Dr. Rajan Krishnan for their guidance and support. A special thanks to Professor Jatin Bhatt, Mr. Samuel J. Earnest, Dr. Suchithra Balasubrahmanyan, SCCE faculty and the SMGFR committee for their invaluable and constant support and advise during the setting up of this installation.
I would like to specially thank Lokesh Khodke and Thama without whose help this installation could not have been put up.
I am grateful to Samanta, Pankaj, Ritika Mittal, Pallavi Arora, Akshay Sethi, Anupam Roy, Karthik K G, Khursheed, Rakesh, Shakti, Rohit, Mona, Mr. Ramakrishan Potty, Yatinder, Madheshji, Kishanji, Dayachandji and the security staff of AUD for their support.