In a world where artists grapple with the challenge of creating art that minimizes waste, Vibha Galhotra takes a unique approach by crafting her art installations from discarded materials. Her latest creation, "Future Fables," weaves a narrative of a future shaped by the forces of climate change, consumerism, capitalism, and globalization through an architectonic sculpture accompanied by sound. The primary components of this striking sculpture are repurposed concrete and construction waste sourced from local demolition sites. By reimagining these abandoned materials, Galhotra draws attention to the environmental repercussions of unbridled urban expansion, as well as the remnants left behind by conflicts and natural disasters, presenting them as symbolic elements of our contemporary era.
How did you get into multi-media and immersive art?
There was no strategic planning to work with different mediums, rather, it has been and continues to be an organic process for me. Each work demands its own physical embodiment in a specific material. Having initially trained as a printmaker in Chandigarh and subsequently in Santiniketan, my initial aspirations leaned towards photography and photojournalism. However, my artistic journey has evolved into a multi-medium exploration, wherein I employ various visual art forms to narrate temporal narratives to the audience.
Exploring diverse mediums in my artistic endeavours is a continual source of fresh learning, ensuring the enduring allure of the creative process. The excitement of venturing into the unknown, and investigating the interactions among different materials and elements in diverse moments and spaces, injects a dynamic dimension into my work. I consider this adaptability a strength, particularly when working within varied communities, times, and spaces. To illustrate, in a recent project for the SA Ladakh, a burgeoning land art festival where I serve as an advisor, I undertook a text-based installation at the highest altitude in Ladakh. Employing discarded and donated clothes obtained from Local Futures (NPO) and local residents, I crafted a work conveying the message "YOU DON'T OWN ME." Collaborating with local women, we stitched together these found clothes to form the letters, with the support of the SA Ladakh team in placing the written text on one of the hills for public engagement. To grasp the profound impact of our actions on the planet, it's essential to recognize that, in no time, nature can reclaim itself. We often fail to comprehend its mysteries, remaining just one species coexisting on this Earth. Nature, through what we perceive as calamities, serves as a stark reminder of our interconnectedness and the consequences of our actions.
This installation is crafted primarily from reclaimed concrete and construction waste sourced from local demolition sites and unauthorized dumping areas across the city. By creatively reinterpreting these discarded materials, the work emphasizes the environmental impact of unregulated urban growth, shedding light on the aftermath of conflicts and natural disasters. These repurposed elements serve as symbolic representations of our contemporary era, drawing attention to the consequences of uncontrolled urban expansion and the resulting debris from various challenges our society faces. To add, poetically:
In the contest of chaos, where nature weeps, A tale of debris, in silence it seeps.
Wars waged with anger, a relentless fight, Cities were reduced to rubble, swallowed by night.
Debris of dreams, shattered and torn, In the aftermath, a world forlorn.
Mountains of trash, an unsightly mound, Consuming the Earth, like a relentless hound.
Plastic seas and polluted air, A legacy of neglect, we're forced to bear.
(excerpt from a long poem Debris by Vibha galhotra)
In what terms do you think our way of interacting with our surroundings should change?
While the idea might seem cliché, the key to meaningful change lies in altering our daily behaviours and practices, complemented by a hands-on approach to educating the public about ecosystems and responsible consumption. Shifting away from a reliance on written information, active public engagement can cultivate a profound understanding and appreciation for the crucial need to preserve our natural environments. Furthermore, it necessitates robust measures against industries contributing to pollution. In this narrative, a critical examination of our consumption patterns is imperative for a comprehensive and effective approach. I feel ‘Exuberance on the earth is constant, with or without us.’
The evolution has been significant over the years, with Indian art now seamlessly integrated into the global landscape of contemporary art. Notably, there is a wealth of impactful work emerging from India in this context. However, the challenges persist due to a lack of robust institutional support and limited commercial viability for such artistic practices. Navigating this landscape has been a journey, and it took considerable time for me to reach this stage. I am grateful for the collaborative efforts of supporting galleries, particularly my gallery Nature Morte, which played a pivotal role in fundraising by selling a portfolio of small sculptures for this ambitious project. Additionally, the support from STIR, providing a space to bring my vision to life, has been instrumental in realizing these projects.
Words Paridhi Badgotri