In Delhi-based artist Susanta Mandal’s exhibition How Long Does it Take to Complete a Circle?, wires, pipes, pipelines, thread, pulleys, batteries, tube-lights, lamplights and everything one associates with the underlying electrical system in a building society, finds space on gallery walls. At first glance, you may be conned into thinking the man is an electrical engineer instead of an artist.
Walking through this exhibition, on at Bangalore’s GallerySKE till 16 April, you will come across an installation in which candlelight illuminates an abstract, tough-to-comprehend setting inside a room. However, the beam is powerful enough to bring to life a flurry of surrounding objects such as insects, paper and bric-a-brac arbitrarily hanging around a room that is rich and eerie in its expanse of pitch. You slide towards another installation to see tubular structures connected to a motor. It appears like one part of the electrical system of a housing society supplying power to different parts of an area. The strangeness of the installation is enough to make you gawk.
What on earth is going on?
When you pose such questions and liken the artist to an electrical engineer, Mandal laughs. What are you trying to say? I ask him over the phone. “My aim (is) to capture the anxiety and energy we have about power. I live in a hot, dusty, extremely power-hungry and power-cut prone area of north India, where the need, the use and consumption of electricity is a fascinating process. That’s why my inclination towards understanding what these structures mean,” he elucidates.
Moreover, Mandal says, as art, his work is the attempt to grasp a process more than communicate a message. “The title of my show itself is very ironic. I have an electrical apparatus installed and am aiming to show where power (electrical power) begins and ends, which by definition doesn’t have a beginning and ending! One doesn’t know where the circle of power begins or ends, but one can point to the areas where it is at its most active.”
As art then, this show is a demonstration of the absurd, abstract manner in which electrical power moves, and it sets the scene for our daily lives. As he puts it, his work is an “experiment with structural constructions to perplex viewers and subvert ways of seeing”. In a nutshell, by pushing the viewer to acknowledge the systems and structures that go into the functioning of the everyday, Mandal’s work is a way of making us discern the circuits and circles which empower urban lives.
How Long Does it Take to Complete a Circle? is on at GallerySKE, 2, Berlie Street, Langford Town, Bangalore, till 16 April.