Riyas Komu’s solo expo Holy Shiver brings this western philosophical concern closer home.
If Modern Indian artists dealt with displacement, war, identity and Indian philosophy after Independence, contemporary Indian artists are grappling with the unstable energies of the Post-truth era. The term, ‘Post-truth’ describes a situation “in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”. The exit of Great Britain from the European Union and the election of Donald Trump as the American President marked the beginning of the era.
The solo exhibition Holy Shiver of Indian contemporary artist Riyas Komu at the Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi, brings this western philosophical concern closer home by presenting the current political situation in the country. Dhamma Swaraj, Fourth Lion-II, I Think therefore I am series bring to the forefront the gradual distortion of political truths in the country.
This post-truthfulness builds a fragile social edifice based on wariness, the effects of which can be seen in the reactions of Indian society to violence committed in the name of religion, community and eating preferences. This era of intolerance and half truths is to the artist “a reflection of our times”. His art, according to him, “intends to document and potentially question how we are developing as a civilisation”.
The 10 politically charged curated exhibitions at the Dhaka Art Summit 2018 and India Art Fair 2018 saw an onslaught of artists who tackled this shift in Truth telling. Commissioned works like Arareen’s bamboo sculpture entitled Rite/Right of Passage (2017) and the Untitled installation by Sheela Gowda exploring Bangladeshi material culture are perhaps a commentary on this transition in societies of developing countries.
Nityan Unnikrishnan’s gripping mixed media on paper works present the consequences of rampant urban development and its effect on nature.
While the art community is alarmed at this fast-spreading phenomenon and is trying to question, dissent and speak truth to power, it seems the general public is relatively less concerned with this gradual erosion of trust around them.
(Shruthi Issac is an independent art curator and writer)