Delhi-based artist Vivan Sundaram is among the most famed figures in Indian present day and contemporary art. His installation titled, “Black Gold”, thematises the historical port city recognised as Muziris which disappeared following a significant flood in the Periyar river in 1341. The artist seeks to rekindle the memory of the town as an “imaginary habitation”. His creativity took the condition of an artwork installation in Aspinwall Residence, Kochi in 2012. The web page delivers an understanding of the deep-seated contradictions in the new-media practices of art in India.
The work spreads throughout an location of all over 10 × 5m with a top of 1½ ft. it is produced of all over 20,000 tiny terracotta shards and damaged items of purple and grey bricks. Nevertheless very little is conspicuously identifiable, there are slight recommendations of rocks, hillocks, person-created but broken buildings of doubtful character, meandering pavements and so on. Their meticulous rendering in miniature is definitely admirable and visually partaking. But how far the visible text of this “imaginary habitation” aids us imagine the historical metropolis ravaged by flood is the stage to be probed.
The artist takes immeasurable artistic independence to transport the port-city from the traditionally actual to the “imaginary habitation”. Nevertheless, his set up fails to unfold a planet in which an ancient city breathed its lifestyle. No memory is recalled and no historical past is re-told possibly of the glory of an historic port washed absent in floods or about the historic civilization that is considered to have flourished in and close to the city.
Vivan’s “imaginary habitation”, on the contrary, is characterised by the profound absence of habitation. The artist is the ideal individual to discuss about his site-particular artwork: “What interested me was the relationship between expansion and advancement. I was also fascinated in the plan of the fragment because the fragment is the accumulation of material” (The Hindu, 21-12-2016). These sights do not offer you an perception into the supplied operate they look to be oblivious to the get the job done as a lot as his text by themselves.
The Black Golden Muziris also incorporates a a few-minute digital movie projection. The projection falls from the ceiling vertically on the flooring shut to the viewer. During the filming, a camera was held significantly over the eye-level to seize the pottery shards ‘flooding ‘city’ to depart it under drinking water. And afterwards, 15 kg of peppercorns have been distribute around the drinking water to develop “a weird, mysterious landscape like, probably, the moon”, suggests Vivan.
The online video impression exhibits the floating black gold strewn above the drinking water flowing in sluggish-movement. What is paradoxical below is that as a result of creativeness, the record or the memory of a town submerged in drinking water, however, falls into the illusion of a “strange, mysterious landscape”. It is in this article, nowhere else, that his terms and functions converge into a scarce musical harmony but towards his very own volition. For that reason, the reconstructable historicity of Muziris has been entirely wiped off in favour of visual enjoyment that stems out of a disoriented creativity, which might aptly be termed as “memory in opposition to history”, to borrow Andrea Huysans’ phrase.
As a person of the leading artists who in the early 90s introduced set up to the Indian art scene, Vivan Sundaram does not think in the cult of the artist. It can be perceived how his earlier installations de-materialise the artwork item forcefully to resist the commodification of art within the institutional framework of art practice. The set up on Muziris belongs to the identical fold.
Artwork critic & writer. Teaches art record at the College of Fantastic Arts, Thiruvananthapuram