Artist Elin Vister with her installation 'Soundscape Røst: The Listening Lounge' as part of the exhibition 'G/rove' at Gallery Latitude 28.

Elin Vister with her installation Soundscape Røst: The Listening Lounge . Image courtesy:  Gallery Latitude 28.

G/rove

Artists: Bhajju Shyam | Elin Már Øyen Vister | Forager Collective | Krishnaraj Chonat | Nobina Gupta | Radhika Agarwala | Rithika Merchant | Seema Kohli | Suchismita Mohanty Ram | Shweta Bhattad | Tanya Busse | TASC Ablett & Brafield | The Center for Genomic Gastronomy

Curated by Bhavna Kakar and Adwait Singh

Exhibition dates: 1 February – 28 February 2017
Venue: Gallery Latitude 28, New Delhi

Gaia does not and could not care about human or other biological beings’ intentions or desires or needs, but Gaia puts into question our very existence, we who have provoked its brutal mutation that threatens both human and nonhuman livable presents and futures. – Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene

 

In her book The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, the American journalist Elizabeth Kolbert paints a sobering scenario of mass extinction facing the current denizens of the planet, comparable to other great extinctions in the geological past in scope and scale, straight out of the science fiction stories by writers such as Ursula K. Le Guin and James Lovelock. As the planet stands at a risk of losing 50-95% of its biodiversity in the coming few years, the discourse on the Anthropocene has witnessed the emergence of an antithesis that subsumes the anthropogenic factors within the autopoietic system that is Gaïa.  Voiced by the likes of Donna Haraway and Isabelle Stengers, this view shifts the spotlight from the human to the planet, reconfiguring Gaïa as a provoked intrusive entity, capable of foiling aspirations of modernity, in contradistinction to Bruno Latour’s “facing Gaïa”[1]. The surge in various trends within ecofeminism such as animism, creaturely cosmology, posthumanism, relational biology and ecosexuality – are symptomatic of this decentering of the anthropos with the view to promulgating new ways of thinking non-anthropocentrically with the planet and its myriad non-human critters and components. Such subaltern knowledge systems are already inherited by us through the coexistence of local, indigenous, folk and tribal beliefs and practices in the contemporary – significant among them concepts such as the tree of life that cuts across various cultural imaginations and geo-temporalities. The mythologies such as those surrounding the benign kalpavrikshas (wish-fulfilling trees) or kamdhenus (wish-fulfilling fauna) serve to condition our worldview to a symbiotic understanding of the planetary holarchy by embodying the non-human with agency and desire, in a move away from human exceptionalism and individualism. In this sense, myths can be thought of as accumulated repositories of prophetic wisdom that traverses through temporalities to make itself available in the service of a future event as opposed to utopias which conjure up multiple worldings of the future-event providing orientating devices and access key to the knowledge of the myth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Faced with the impending ecological purging glimpsed through the cracks in the current scientific and neoliberal rhetoric, Peter Grey, the co-founder of Scarlet Imprint has issued the call for “rewilding” and reinforcing our witchcraft as a way for us to brace the death and horror that awaits us. Identifying ‘the witch’ as that which “has been created by the land to speak and act for it”, Grey posits:

 

Witchcraft, being animist, is not so selfishly anthropocentric, our personal loyalty lies not with our genetic survival but aligns with the fate of all things to which we are innately bound.[2]


 

Against the backdrop of dramatic ecological shifts that has come to define the Anthropocene, the exhibition attempts to redraw the socio-ecological contract between the human and the more-than-human components of the planet. As the title 'G/rove' suggests, the show envisages non-anthropocentric modes of thinking/being with the planet through mythical and utopian frames. It hopes to uncover the key to appeasing a provoked Gaïa by inviting the viewer to rove through the progressively disenchanted forest that constitutes the world in search of disused modalities and imaginative designs that would help us build a metaphorical ark preparatory for the times of ecological turbulence ahead. Modelled after a sacred grove, the exhibition, packs an ambiguity within its totemic flesh (similar to that connoted by the term ‘sacred’ as expounded by the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben). The “homo sacers”[3] and the phenomenon of this dystopic garden are both sacred and tabooed. The garden is bathed in a non-human sexuality, one that forestalls any reterritorialisation of the professional/capitalistic (as Deleuze would put it) and is potentially contagious and those that enter are charged with becoming wolves, baying in packs.

 

‘G/rove’ calls upon us as creatures of the land to recharge our witchcraft and find new forms for it. At best, it summons a last stand and at worse it is a final elegy to the dead and the dying, a coming to terms with our own accelerated death.

*****

 

[1] See “Matters of Cosmopolitics: On the Provocations of Gaïa: Isabelle Stengers in Conversation with Heather Davis and Etienne Turpin” published in Etienne Turpin ed. Architecture in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Design, Deep Time, Science and Philosophy. https://quod.lib.umich.edu/o/ohp/12527215.0001.001/1:19/--architecture-in-the-anthropocene-encounters-among-design?rgn=div1;view=fulltext

(accessed on 10 January, 2017.)

[2] Peter Grey, “Rewilding Witchcraft”. Scarlett Imprint, June 13, 2014. http://scarletimprint.com/2014/06/rewilding-witchcraft/

[3] Agamben, Giorgio. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. by Daniel Heller-Roazen. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998 (1995).

Exhibition viewers inspecting Elin Vister's Soundscape Røst: The Listening LoungeImage courtesy: Gallery Latitude 28.

Still from the performative tea ceremony by Suchismita Mohanty Ram. Image courtesy:  Gallery Latitude 28.

Still from a special evening 'Seek, Cultivate, Connect" curated by chef Anuj Wadhawan as a part of one of the interventions in the show. Image courtesy: Gallery Latitude 28.

For more information on the exhibition click here.