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Articles on Indian contemporary art by Swapna Vora

Anti matter? Kausik M's universe
by Swapna Vora

February 08, 2007

(click on the small image for full screen image with captions.)
Kausik Mukhopadhyay, a part of India’s post Midnight Children, wryly comments on those complex cyborgs called cities. We live in spaces with no space and in times when time has, without giving notice, slyly slipped away. Kausik creates models of cities that are Mumbai but could easily be New York. He laments the lack of space to breathe, to grow and loiter, as cities are packed with more and more ticks, tocks, locks, clocks, cogs, wheels, sprockets and bolts to move us, shift us, elevate us, escalate us and lock us up. And so his models are high up: to reach them we must clamber and waltz over ladders. We see his little urban landscapes surrounding puddles of water, with clocks whirring, machines going bump, almost as weird as the mechanical, neon lit universe we choose to inhabit. However like viewing and entering his work, this is a willful choice. To inhabit this world we need to decide consciously to live there, to join the struggle, this rat race where we choose to buy more and more expensive things to show our success. Our willingness to pay for fleeting rubbish by using our strictly limited allotment of time is what ‘the city’ seems to be about. Meanwhile life, like wind and water, drifts away. In his case, we strain to reach the top of the ladder and peer precariously at miniature worlds and descend with difficulty, tottering and holding onto thin rails for support. Our beloved daily treadmill?

Kausik Mukhopadhyay was born in 1960 and lives in Mumbai, his muse, his home, and the object of his affection and indignation. Trained at Shantiniketan, influenced by Mumbai’s architecture, he and his ephemeral work have traveled the globe. His multi media, multi universe invoking installations show complex, crowded cities controlled by mechanical men and their magnificent machines: buildings, water flows, glittering lights, chunks of managed wood, neon colored blocks and bolts, truly a miniature Mumbai. ‘Energetic, vibrating, strong’ come to mind, along with, alas, ugly urban dynamics. His replicas of experienced reality are not mirrors of exact representations but a springboard, a trampoline of constructions and views. There seems to be no space and no break for the individual in modern society as our collective energy constantly moves and manifests itself in a number of different, related forms. Like a joint family?


And so he ponders over choices of living this way, each of us unable and perhaps unwilling to be weaned from our addictions, our need for constant stimulation and adrenaline.

Walking through his beloved MOMA, we talked of what it means to be an artist, of art as a commodity, the necessity of money, its pleasures and its limitations. We spoke of the sixties when free art, postcards and posters had begun to be deposited on doorsteps and contrasted it with the strict solemn economy of the ‘art world’. The explosion of pop and popular art meant it had become common or garden, in other words, available.

He sighed: When I return to Mumbai, I will miss these historically important objects. How different they are from their pictures! I shall miss them. They serve to check and recheck misplaced memory.

And so Kausik cultivates his urban gardens, comments on formal construction and talks of matter and antimatter, man’s obsession with what is considered expensive at any given moment. He smiled about the grand solemn salons of rarified art we have created, where art is a deity to be worshipped with flowers, incense and hymns of praise in the Sunday tabloids.

Kausik’s work has usually been ephemeral, made for now, to be seen, experienced and perhaps be a witness to one’s own perspective shifts. His work has been in commercial galleries and often in alternative spaces. He adds: I see my work as moving away from objects, perhaps becoming digital. I see my work as an event, ephemeral. I do not seek it, or me, to last all time.

Kausik Mukhopadhyay recently exhibited his work in New York.

© Swapna Vora and

Editor’s note: December 14, 2006 - February 3rd, 2007: - TamarindArt New York City “Reverse-Depth”, a group show featuring the works by some of India’s most eminent artists including Prabhakar Kolte, Amitava, Samit Das, Samit Dey, and Kausik Mukhopadhyay.


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