Three months after the 2006 train blasts, artist Sharmila Samant (43) started leaving pink-coloured briefcases at stations along the Western line, where the blasts had occurred. She left them on the platform and photographed people’s reactions from a distance.
This led her to photograph knapsacks, tiffin boxes, bicycles and pressure cookers — all of which have been used as explosive devices. “I realised everyday objects can take on a different meaning when used as objects of terror,” she said.
For the first time in the city, some of her photographs are exhibited at Lakeeren Art Gallery.
Titled Punctum II, A Critical Look at Landscape in South Asian Photography, a set of 16 photographs of a pressure cooker are exhibited with the works of five other photographers including Mumbai artist Prajakta Potnis, Delhi-based Gauri Gill and Sonia Khurana, and New York photographers Yamini Nayar and Sreshta Premnath.
The exhibition is the second of a two-part series curated by Arshiya Lokhandwala. They are structured around the concept of punctum, derived from structuralist Roland Barthes’ book on photography, Camera Lucida. The idea, Lokhandwala explains, is for the viewer to experience something new and intense after seeing the photograph.
“Punctum I, which ended two weeks ago, was about re-examining the human body. Punctum II explores landscapes. The photographs escape conventional understanding of landscape and bring it to the domestic space. Traditional landscapes too have been revisited and re-created,” she said.
Abhay Sardesai, editor of Art India, who attended Punctum I is interested in artists like Premnath whose works have been shown at the Thomas Erben Gallery, New York. “Often shows built around a theoretical formulation don’t have works that match up to it. But Punctum II sounds promising with the works of Premnath and other interesting photographers,” he said.
To ensure viewer participation, Lokhandwala intends to do away with titles and descriptions. “We will give viewers a gallery guide to explore the photographs and make their own meanings,” she said. “All viewers must find their own ‘hey moment’, where something from the frame will jump out at them,” she said.
Samant’s photographs are close-ups and blurred shots of different parts of the steel cooker. “The close-ups turn the household object into a blur of colours and textures like fragments after an explosion,” she said. “The idea is to get people thinking and make them look at reality in a renewed way.”
The exhibition at Lakeeren Art Gallery, Colaba, started on Thursday and will be on until May 5. For details call 022-65224179. The gallery is open from 11 am to 7 pm and is closed on Sundays.