Liberty Taken (Apart)
Thursday 17 December | Vernissage
Sir JJ School of Arts , Fine Arts Building.
4.30 - 6.30 PM
Crawford Market , Bombay
Clark House Bombay
7 - 10 PM
Supported by the Sir JJ School of Art
Dean Vishwanath Sabale, Prof. Anant Nikam, Studio in Charge
Eugene Flandin was an adventurer who travelled as an orientalist and a socio-grapher documenting West Asia. His approach and reason to be there was somewhere seduced by the want to be in the Orient, somewhere as an agent of France’s imperial conquest for a mandate in ancient Mesopotamia and as an artist. His detailed drawings of Persepolis and accounts on the Qajar Dynasty informs of what we think of Iran outside the Islamic Revolution. Aurélien Mole has documented exhibitions for somewhere around a decade harnessing the practice of creating a perspective of a document around an art work, that might already dwell in the same vision. Not far from Paris in the more depressed part of industrial France is the city of Brest. Here at the Center for Contemporary Art - Passerelle he currently has a solo presentation in response to a call for an exhibition ’Gateway’ to the centre. Tongue in cheek Mole sent a proposal for an exhibition called Benin a word that can be easily mistaken for Benign. But Benin is a country in West Africa and a region in Nigeria that is known for the longest history for producing the most sophisticated bronze and wood sculptures that are prized throughout the world. The French word for ’Benign’ is ’Benin’ . Picasso himself wondered at the finesse and the conceptual degree existent in African sculpture often criticising the craft quality of decorative Greek inspired sculpture taught at European schools. Picasso a self taught sculptor made Africa his site for inspiration as he gathered incomprehensible ingredients to make fabulous sculptures, Africa was to inspire Joseph Beuys and the Fluxus group who paid it ode by rejecting the linear trajectory of European Art History that refused to include the world. So how does the ’Benin Bronze’ enter into a solo show by a photographer and an art historian who has studied curating ? This question that in itself is compelling in the dichotomies it presents in terms of exoticism, conceptual practice and the politics that intervene into the criticism of the effort. Mole in his solo debut at Clark House Initiative and the Sir JJ School of Art rather does not shy away from this discomfort but puts out a studied answer that engulfs the questions of conceptual art and craft.
Mole has been a regular visitor to India since his youth. But last year as a part of a group show ’ And they laid traps for the Troubadours’ at the Clark House in association with the Kadist Art Foundation he conducted a workshop at the Sir JJ School of Art Printmaking Studio. Here he began to watch how bystanders from the local commuter train terminus - CST across the street would gather at the fence of the school and watch students of the sculpture department grind stones into graduation submissions. Mole is well known to have documented many exhibitions in Paris often photographing various mediums that are concocted into art. Thus the view and the perspective of the viewer is of keen interest to him. Born in Tehran having left it as an infant Mole returned to Iran with his parents in 2009. So between tourist visits to Persepolis and Isfahan and the streets his father tread when he was born Mole began to document quotidian objects such as brooms and panes of glass left at street corners and below falling apart Zoroastrian temples. Only the stone that supported them told us about the antiquity of the location and magically those three rested brooms spelt themselves out as sculpture. Mole had used the same perspective and distance he used to photograph artworks. Somewhere he wanted to sculpt the view of the grand public that encountered the monuments crafted at JJ School over the century sitting pretty under trees around the city’s heritage district.
Another travel writer whose anti-monarchistic writing and acts made him unpopular in Britain, wrote about the city being the ugliest city anywhere due to its architecture which formed the district of Kala Ghoda nothing more than an architectural sodom. He wrote : “the nineteenth century devised nothing lower than the municipal buildings of British India. Their ugliness is positively daemonic”. He wrote about them in the early 20th century these buildings had not yet aged nor had they grown the overgrowth of tropical vegetation. Therefore when Clark House approached Aurelien Mole for a project for the festival ’Liberty Taken’ he suggested he take apart the monuments to create an exhibition that was literally ’Taken Apart’.
The students of the Sir JJ School of Art after their degrees in sculpture often get absorbed into the numerous ateliers that are based in the city’s suburbs. Here they cast in fibreglass murals and sculptures that then adorn the Neo-Greco Palladian lobbies of the numerous skyscrapers in the city that promise homes akin to New York living. A practice in craft then engulfs their lives. Aurelien Mole passed through academies that had given up traditional didactics of a Fine Art Academy, they had become places that allowed only conceptual art. Sculpture after the ’Arte Povera’ revolution and the dependence on the found object had become streamlined in its aesthetic. Mole rather preferred to question the homogenous representation of the idea which he often encountered in the exhibitions he documented. Therefore his workshops began with a nihilistic effort at sculpting soap from mounds of mud and refuse pieces of marble lying around in the college courtyard. The students had to use the soap until it got to a bespoke style that reflected their use of a diminishing commodity. They then replicated it in a material that would last forever.
Aurelien Mole lead the students to a walkathon around the city of Bombay studying the mural reliefs designed by Lockwood Kipling the famous Dean of the JJ School at the Crawford Market. He them made them distinguish the animal motifs and the design at the fountains in the market and the bases of pillars at the CST Terminus previously known as Victoria Terminus, one of the grandeurs of the British Raj that dwarfed St. Pancras of London. The students were to decide which element they would choose from the monuments if a French style revolution would occur and out of popular demand relics of the previous regime were to be destroyed. This happened in India post independence and we visited the garden outside the Dr. Bhau Daji Lad Museum or the Ex- V& A of Bombay , which now also serves a graveyard of the city’s imperial sculptures of long gone Viceroys and Empresses. The students began to measure the hand of Queen Victoria , another liked Lord Hardinge’s hand on a book and Meher Vahid chose the only monument that glorified the working woman in art deco at the New India Assurance Building.
The students have for weeks worked on hard and unrelenting yellow basalt stones commonly known as Malad Stone. Their perspectives of sculpture have changed , their view on the idea of ’Modern Art’ has been questioned. Their ability to deal with the question of the conceptual has been strengthened and they have understood the inheritance they receive as students of the sculpture department at the Sir JJ School of Art and its relationship with the city. An artist who has played with the idea of the document and the perception has made a solo that entails the presence of a largely curated collaborative group exhibition that manages multiple voices in art. Aurelien Mole has translated his experience with a vocabulary that is not akin to the vocabulary of art in the Occident. He parasites them by laying the sculpted stones on aluminium beds filled with red laterite soil, debris and planted with the city’s common parasites that dwell in the cracks of Neo-Gothic buildings - the long rooted Peepul and Banyan trees.
Sumesh Sharma 2015 , Bombay .
In Stone :
Avinash Mahesh Shivsharan
Rushikesh Prakash Panchal
Siddhant Pitale - Sceptre
Yogesh Barve - Clark House
Arvind Shamro Mangal
Akash Ashok Tirmal
Abhishek Ashok Salve
Meher Danyal Vahid - New india Assurance building
Rahul Raghunath Rinjad
Sachin Bonde - Broken tusk of elephant from Khajuraho
Prasad Nikumbh - Dettol
Shrinivas Mehetre - Medimix
Sucheta Ghadge - Life Boy
Saviya Lopes - Dettol
Ranjeeta Kumari - Liril
Aurélien Mole - Dove