Cultural spiral in plastic 1993
An exhibition of installation
  Participating Artists : Sheila Gowda, Rasna Bushan, Raghavendra Rao, Om Prakash, Ravishankar Rao, P.C. Stephan, Surekha, Sudharsan, Somasekara, Dhanaraj Keezhara, and C.F. John

The installation was in the form of a spiral maze. Two intertwined spirals over 100 feet each in length and 6 feet in height with 4 feet space between each layer were installed. (please refer to drawing). The material used was plastic. The transparent surface of the plastic made it possible to weave together visuals and the viewers from different layers. Hence, contemporaneously the images, installed space, and viewers become integral components of the work.

      Visuals and texts, both in English and in Kannada, were taken from various counter cultural/religious movements from history that countered the dogmatic religious stands of the time. These visuals were painted or drawn on the plastic surface of the spiral. Two parallel mirrors were placed facing each other in the center of the maze where the viewer could see him/herself. The spirals placed emphasis on self-realization rooted in fundamental human values in relation with the Earth…

This was a cultural spiral in plastic, which incorporated non-canonical texts from Buddhist, Bhakti, Sufi and Christian philosophies painted in black on its surface. Serving as an environment rather than as an art object, the spiral offered viewers the possibility of experiencing an inner journey, as they walked through the structure and encountered themselves at the vortex of the installation with an image of themselves, reflected in two long mirrors. Then, along another path, they would journey through the spiral to the world outside.

Tuning into the political dynamics of this secular space, Janaki Nair has rightly highlighted the ‘self’ as one of the most elusive, yet crucial components in shaping secular consciousness. The process of self-confrontation combats both the ‘regime of censorship’ instituted by the agent sof the Hindu Right, as well as the obligatory secular dependency on ‘cultural pluralism’, which can so often be trivialised within ‘the grab-bag of syncretist traditions’ (Nair 1993; 39). Countering these forces, the construction of the ‘secular self’ can draw more meaningfully on the principles of specific cultural resources. In this regard, the choice of the mirrors in the spiral by the chief architect C.F John, was directly inspired by the centrality of the mirror as an image in the ritual celebration of Vishu (new Year) in Kerala, when ‘family members are woken up to a bountiful sight of fruits, flowers, gold, and coconut – but, above all, of a mirror in which they see themselves’. The mirror is also one of the most complex emblems of transition between ‘everyday life’ and ‘performance’ as the auspicious moment when the actor is transformed into another being, another self.

Here again, one notes how an image drawn from a religio-cultural tradition can be effectively secularised with the necessary ideological intervention and the use of particular materials. Plastics, for instance, as Nair points out, was a deliberate choice for the spiral, partly because of its transparency, which enabled the viewers to see the texts along with the bodies of other spectators. This heightened an awareness of collective participation in a visual act – a participation that was both countered and counterpoint by the moment of solitude in the vortex of the spiral. Another reason for the choice of plastic was its ‘synthetic’ challenges to the ‘organicity of vision’ offered by the upholders of a single, unified, eternal Hindu vision of India. It was also through the very contemporaneity of its material that the use of plastic could debunk the ethnicity of indigenous materials that are so often valorised in the national commodification of Indian culture in festivals at home and abroad.

I have dwelt at some length on this installation because it seems to me that the spiral offers one of the most potent visual signs of our emergent secular culture. In its form, one can discern movements that are reflexive and curvilinear, resistant to the certainties of straight lines, and yet directed in its search of the unknown. Tellingly, the journey inwards can also be a shared experience”.

- Rustom Bharucha, In the Name of the Secular – Contemporary Cultural Activism in India, Oxford India Paperbacks

  Links for some of the Installation Events
  Cultural spiral in plastic, 1993

Silence of Furies and Sorrows - Pages of a burning city, 1995

Quest for Celebration and Question on Waste, 1996

Territory - an art event, 1998

Mangroves, 1999

Walls of Memories 2003

Quilted 2003

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