Preserving heritage :

Posted by-Kalki Team

Artist Debasish Mukherjees solo show presents personal observations from historical sites.

India is known for its rich history and people from across the world come here to explore the different historic sites. But are these archaeological sites preserved properly? Artist Debasish Mukherjee in his solo exhibition titled The Museum Within, probes the position and function of museum and its role in conservation.

In 1990 while studying fine arts at Banaras Hindu University, Debasish would frequently visit Sarnath, a Buddhist site 12 kilometres from Varanasi. Surrounded with ancient monasteries, Sarnath is most popular for the 128 feet-high Dhamek Stupa.

However, the efforts to preserve this heritage site have been limited. I saw it deteriorate in front of my eyes. This exhibition is a gathering of my personal observations of historical sites and museum collections in India having travelled widely to cities and villages, vast open spaces and obscure tribal areas, explains Debasish.


He adds, The works in the exhibition, produced between 2015-2016 are a result of all that I have seen in past and admired and wanted to conserve. Through the art, I ask why museums dont play a more critical role toward preservation of these sites and objects, as well as why we as citizens dont have more respect and regard for our heritage. People have different ways of recording their memories and thoughts; for me, it is through art.

The 25 works on display have been inspired largely by sites of the Indus Valley civilisation, such as Dholavira in the Rann of Kutch of Gujarat, Rakhigarhi village in Hisar and Banawali located on the bank of the dried up bed of the Saraswati river in Haryana. He shares, The works are based on archaeological places I have visited over the last 20 years, where I have seen people squatting, engraving their initials or throwing garbage. There is an urgent need to address our negligence towards historical sites.

Through this exhibition Debasish aims to engage in a discourse on museum culture and protection of these sites. It does not seek to posit solutions or critique institutions, but simply to bring back into focus something we have distanced ourselves from too much - our land, our history and our traditions," he says.

The artist uses aerial perspective as a tool that has become a pronounced part of visual cultural production. According to Debasish, the aerial representation enables a revised interpretation of a site. He adds, Expressing the more obvious geographical mapping but also proposing an internal mapping of people- those who inhabit these spaces, others who study them, those who remain indifferent, and the artists own recordings.

One of his works titled Benaras presents a abstract representations of its serpentine lanes, the lingam, constricted staircases hidden within its brick houses and the ghats, in the form of 20 sculpted tablets, arranged in two rows to present the architecture of the city. Talking about the work he shares, "I still remember when I was studying art in Banaras there were certain areas within the city where one could feel the simultaneous presence of history and mythology while being surrounded by teeming multitudes and garish billboards screaming of the in-escapable present.

This constant juxtaposition led to an internal state of flux, which finds an expression in this body of work."

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