This month, New Delhi-based conceptual artist Vibha Galhotra is in residence at Encinitas’ Lux Art Institute with a series of works inspired by globalization’s effect on the environment.
Galhotra garnered international attention with “Absur-City-Pity-Dity,” a 2015 exhibition in New York City that found the artist responding to “all kinds of absurdity I observed in the city of Delhi,” including the festering pollution of the Yamuna River.
At Lux, she’ll turn her attention to our local waterways.
Her sculptures are both thought-provoking and aesthetically appealing, made by sewing tens of thousands ghungroos (ankle bells worn by Indian women) onto vast swathes of fabric shaped into organic forms: a beehive, a serpent, a river slick with oil.
Vibha Galhotra at Lux Art Institute
When: In residence through April 29. On display through May 27.
Where: 1550 S. El Camino Real, Encinitas
Tickets: $5 for adults. Free for Lux members, ages 21 and under and bicycle riders.
Here’s Galhotra in her own words:
“I got inclined toward nature at university, because there was nothing else to do on the campus: no entertainment of the modern world, no clubs, no pubs. I thought, ‘I’m in the 18th century!’ But that brought me closer to the natural world. I used to go the rivers and make a work and leave it there. My site-specific work started there.
“I was using seeds in my work, but I was looking for a more permanent material. The shape of the ghungroos is inspired by seeds. Ghungroos are worn by women, but they were also worn by men earlier; the tribe used to wear them to make their presence felt in the natural world. There’s not a gender thing present in these works. For that matter, I’m not a very gender-specific person.
“When I shifted to Delhi, I knew it was a rude place for the environment. I started studying and realized that the living conditions here are not right for human beings - or any beings. I saw how birds are missing from the city, how other species are missing, and I thought, ‘Who am I? I might be missing from the city very soon.’
“I’m talking about global issues through a local window. These are issues all over the world, not just in Delhi.
“I am from a generation which is seeing a major change in education, environment, culture. (Water pollution) is a major issue all around the world: E-waste is being thrown into the ocean and it’s changing aquatic life. The whole Earth is changing its course; it might be a natural process or the human impact. ... The whole world is living under a fear factor.
"(Nobody owns) water, air, earth, ether or fire, but somebody else can claim that ownership and start selling bottled water. This is a common resource; why do I need to buy it? Because somebody created a fear that this water is poisonous, so we all started consuming it, buying it without realizing it’s a source that is common.
“In India, we believe in the element of ether: panchabuta, atmosphere, space. Whatever you throw in space, it’ll come back like a boomerang. I feel that we are creating a lot of fear: advertising, news, all environmental research is based on fear factor. Maybe my art is even based on fear factor. It’s a boomerang: that fear will come back to us. I try to find the presence of some hope everywhere.
“There will be certain things in the show that leave people with melancholia, but I want them to walk away with hope. (I want to get people) talking about the commons; rather than what’s mine or yours, we need to talk about these commons now. (To see that) the globe is one, rather than have borders which are inbetween us. But those borders are not seen by nature. If any devastation happens in the natural world, it impacts the whole world.”
Kroth is a freelance writer.