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Astha Butail’s interactive installations are all about eliciting a childlike curiosity and enthusiasm in viewers

A PLAYFUL element gets Astha Butail’s new works to endear to a younger audience. At her solo show, Locus of Being at GALLERYSKE, the artist who lives and works in Gurgaon, Haryana, creates a mini-playground of the sort that children ought to frolic and scamper about, the kind of kid-friendly lab that our cities need more of, if only to foster budding whizzes in white cloaks.
Immobile Mobile, the central installation of circular discs mounted on wooden frames, extends the idea of play from toy abacus apparatuses (or Hot Wheels velodromes, if you like) to a testing ground for scientific concepts and handed-down theories. Set off
individually, and left to descend at varying speeds, each disc makes a repetitive ticking sound, creating a hypnotic harmony, and the impression of the insides of a giant musical instrument — with the viewers serving as lilliputian handymen.
A note from Butail describes concepts of the akasha (sky, or an all-pervading field in ether) and its characteristic shabda (word or speech sound), questioning the dynamic between static and moving elements, purusha (cosmic man) and prakriti (nature).
Poetic silence
The essence of nascency defines Butail’s other work, The sun will rise, statedly modelled on the havan kund (of rituals centred around fire), with delicate lines on paper in a series of thirty frames, representing days and minutes in time. Demanding microscopic inspection, the work reveals a deceptively straight line, marking ever so slight shifts in gradation.
Yet another interactive work, 10 directions, offers the element of choice, spurring viewers to pick up flashcards from different sets of drawers, bearing suggestive labels such as “Hell and Mind’s Logic”, “Indulgence”, and “Blind Instinct”.18
Butail’s most engrossing works involve threaded frames, as of the mechanics in musical instruments like the flute, drum and harmonium, while addressing the notion of an ‘aural vacuum’, referring to matters of lost dialogue, gaps in communication, and cultural loss.
As a part of the show, Butail also enacted a piece titled, Sans performance: vow of silence, sitting adjacent to and apparently meditating over a panelled mirror resembling the spread pages of a book. Butail offers, “The main focus of this show is to locate within yourself that point which makes you get into action or inaction, to reveal your own knot of action.” Ultimately, the impression of a soundless, expressionless calm that the artist seeks to convey might well be described as a childlike sense of awe about the natural and material world.

Until February 25. Daily 7-9 pm except Tuesdays, Sundays by appointment. Details: 41120873
— Jaideep Sen

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