The mirror of truth and deceit

Bose Krishnamachari’s newest work, The Mirror Sees Best in the Dark, is a response to chaos, both within and outside

The mirror of truth and deceit

Sarika Sharma

Making of the biennale

The Mirror Sees Best in the Dark has been in the making for two years now. It is being spoken of as a show that has come out nine years after his last solo show, the travelling project LaVA (Laboratory of Visual Arts) spanning between 2006-2011. However, Krishnamachari says he was busy with various things, major among them being the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, which he co-founded in 2012. “It is a festival for the people and by the people. It isn’t easy to make the Biennale happen.”

Art is how an artist responds to the turmoil inside and outside. Bose Krishnamachari’s newest work, an assemblage of 90 works that go into the making of nine projects, is his response to the current chaos in the country. He calls it The Mirror Sees Best in the Dark.

On at Emami Art in Kolkata, he juxtaposes minimalism against maximalism. Materially rich and diverse assemblages and installations explore the co-existence of extremes, the closeness between opposites....

In the gallery, a 120x90 feet room with highly decorated wallpaper has been created by Krishnamachari to look like a sanctum sanctorum. The outside here remains minimal, but there is chaos inside the sanctum, depicted by ostentatious motifs. “Sometimes, this portrait is manifestly clear, as in the works where he uses a traditional Kerala metal mirror. Sometimes, as when he uses Braille in his graphite works, we may have to decode the portrait,” poet and cultural theorist Ranjit Hoskote says in the introduction to this work.

9 Rasas, inspired by the royalty, is a series of highly ornate wooden panels arranged in a diminuendo, over a metal saw. For Krishnamachari, they are a representation of the perils of obsession, which is, in many ways, central to the works in this exhibition. He says ‘obsession’ is responsible for what our country and the world have come to.

The many obsessions: 9 Rasas and One Soft Cut

‘Obsessions’ is, in fact, his other major project in this series. On display are nine frames gilded with gold—perhaps a representation of the nine rasas too. Out of these frames seem to jut out nine words: ‘God, Religion, Technology, Casteism, Regionalism, Nationalism, Narcissism, Racism, Capitalism’, seen over multiple layers of detailing on acrylic mirror and ornamental glass.

“Nationalism of today is very different from the nationalism in pre-Independence India. That holds true across the world. Now consider religion. Obsession with it leads to chauvinism, making it dangerous,” he says. Another interesting work is 10 Commandments in Silence, a minimalistic rendition that also lies on the border of the absurd. Ten gospels, written in Braille, yet framed in glass, disallowing one to touch, engage or read.

Bose Krishnamachari

For the making of this series, Krishnamachari has used a mélange of materials—graphite, copper, steel, ceramic, wood, mirror... At the centre of the series, however, is the ‘aranmula kannadi’, a type of metal-alloy mirror that is native to Pathanamthitta, Kerala. Considered a traditional metallurgical feat, the mirrors are produced by excessive polishing of the dark metal surface, for several days straight, till they become bright enough to reflect. Nine carved wooden frames, with aranmula mirrors embedded in coloured acrylic glass, comprise the titular artwork of this exhibition, says Krishnamachari. “A lot of manual labour has gone into the making of this series too. Craftsmen from Kerala were engaged for the wood work, from Baroda for ceramic letters,” he shares.

The beauty behind all this hard labour has gone into sending out a potent message: what you see may not be true. “There is danger in beautiful things as well. We hear so many sugary words all the time, but they are all vitiating our country.”

He says he responds to the obsession with nationalism and religion in the country in his own language. It hurts him that the Centre releases funds for flood-affected states but doesn’t give Kerala, the worst affected, even a single penny because their politics is different. “I was very young when Emergency was imposed on the country. But I would say these are worse times. The ideals of the nation are breaking into pieces. Look at the country, the world to… it is all damaged badly. To cure, we must take corrective actions immediately. Else, it will be too late.”

On till March 10

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