Three decimal points/ Of a minute/ Of a second/ Of a degree (2014) is a multi-part, immersive installation which doubles as an abstract, quasi-philosophical meditation on geometry, time, materiality, cartography and a triangle as the embodiment of contradictions. Composed of a series of suspended objects Kher calls ‘single points of contact—triangles inside each of which swings a pendulum, seemingly unstable but never collapsing—the installation is: “A mobile that seeks to undervalue everything that is not abstruse. It is a point that marks the place and time and coordinates of where the world can stand still for a second of a minute of a degree. By both confronting and accepting gravitational forces, all objects can find their perfect equilibrium, poise and meaning.”
In her research, Kher was drawn to several references: The Penrose triangle as a visually fulfilled object that can never be resolved in three dimensions, astronomical charts by the medieval scholar Al-Biruni (973-1052 CE) and the 1400-year-old quest to determine the true shape of the earth which in the 19th century returned to India in the form of the triangulation survey of the meridian arc that runs from South India to Nepal and East to the Western Ghats.
One of many parallel geodetic quests, the ‘Great Triangulation Survey of India’ became one aspect of the colonial project through which India’s rivers, mountains and plains were meticulously measured for their worth to the Empire. In Kochi, the artist found one of its remnants, the mortar of a 60-feet-high survey tower from which a Banyan tree now grows.
Reflecting on the project, Kher writes: “Hundreds of men died, scores of elephants would move a mountain and then raze tree cover in a matter of weeks. Tea was served at 4. All perfectly mad. The survey maps are beautiful.”