(left) In Shetty’s Eight Corners of the World series, domestic furniture and objects turn into surreal organs leaking blood or milk. Collected in troughs placed under the cabinets, the liquids are pumped back to rejoin the endless, gushing, gurgling torrent.
Shetty is fascinated by machines and toys. At the same time, his work shows a deep anxiety about technology. As he says, toys and machines also seem to have a life of their own, as if they exist and perform on another plane of understanding, unknown to us.2 The translation of living traits - such as circulating fluids and throbbing hearts - to mechanical bodies gives his inventions an eerie life. It sometimes gives them the inevitability of death as well. If we keep the pump switched off in this work, it will no longer be the artwork that Shetty intended. If we keep it running, this cabinet will gradually degenerate and stop functioning as it wears itself away.
(right) This sculpture is one of a series that Nicola Durvasula made as homages and reprisals of modernist masterpieces. Kinetic Sculpture remakes Naum Gabo’s work, Kinetic Construction (Standing Wave) (1919-20). In Gabo’s sculpture, a metal rod mounted on a pedestal vibrates and a line turns into a form that occupies space.
Durvasula’s sculpture replaces the upright metal rod with the consumable, ephemeral and culturally marked agarbatti or incense stick. In Durvasula’s piece, the viewer is expected to insert an agarbatti into the stand and light it, as one would in the daily ritual of puja, and then press the switch that will make it vibrate. Unlike Gabo’s uniform metal rod, the aggarbatti has a glowing tip, which describes a visually compelling arc.
Translating Gabo’s sculpture into desi material, Durvasula creeps into modernism’s masculine terrain, occupies it, and fills it with perfume.