Web of history: Reena Kallat’s installation

From afar, you’d be forgiven for thinking there’s a giant spider web sprawled across the front façade of Bhau Daji lad Museum in Byculla. But move closer and you’d see that it’s a massive installation created by artist Reena Kallat, by stringing together a number of rubber stamps.

Each stamp bears an old, colonial name of one of the city’s streets, which since then has been rechristened with a more indigenous name. “Some street names have held meanings in people’s lives and are reflections of the city and the transformation it has undergone. In fact, the museum too was originally named Victoria and Albert museum. It houses and archives several pieces that reflect our industrial and artisanal past. There are statues that carry the original names of the streets where they were placed,” explains Kallat.

The installation has been created as part of ZegnArt Public, a collaboration between Italy’s Ermenegildo Zegna Group and the city museum. The initiative also includes a series of workshops conducted by Kallat and a residency grant for an Indian artist less than 32 years of age.

Kallat claims that over the past decade, she has used rubber stamps in many of her works. “They are symbolic of the bureaucratic practice. They can confirm or obscure identities by either endorsing names or stamping them out of existence,” she says. “Arthur Road is now Sane Guruji Marg, while Clark Road is Keshavrao Khadye Marg. Their history is parallel to the museum’s history. In the process, I had the joy of learning about their history and transformation.”

As part of the agreement, the installation will be up for viewing till April 14 and the dates may be extended. The museum is understood to have agreed to showcase it three times over the next decade.

 

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