Homing, a group show at gallery Art Positive in Lado Sarai, a neighbourhood deep in south Delhi, newly and incongruously lined with bijoux galleries, is cleverly named. It evokes, for instance, homing pigeons with their unerring instinct, however far afield they may have flown, to return, to find once more the familiar. All of us have that homing instinct. Even extraterrestrials, as Steven Spielberg showed us, just want to “phone home".

The “About Exhibition" note on Art Positive’s website, reprinted on a wall in the compact two-storey building, asserts that home is “many things simultaneously—it is a site; it is a desire; it is nostalgia; it is ambition; it is a haven; it is a prison; it is place of belonging and unbelonging". The curator, Deeksha Nath, has put together a show that hints at all these things. Home, in the work of many of these artists, is not just representative of safety or familiarity but also of loss.

Take Arun Kumar H.G.’s installation, 8 Feet X 8 Feet, which is suffused with loss and, more affectingly, with a forlorn hope. Kumar’s piece is a room, constructed out of medium-density fibre boards covered with photo prints. The room, its stifling dimensions reflected in the title, is the sort of cramped space occupied by innumerable lonely men who make the desperate journey to the city from their rural homes to seek work and money. Clothes are strewn across a line. There are Jyoti tiffins, though how much nutrition is to be found within is called into question by the prominently displayed bottles of Dexorange and Calcimax. On a pair of headphones hanging from a nail, you can hear the story of a man who dreams of building a house with his meagre income, of doing what is necessary in the city for however long it takes to fulfil the dream of owning a home.

It’s clear what home might mean to a man like him, a labourer, say, a working class man who sees liberty in home-ownership, security in having something that cannot be taken away. That dream of home is in stark contrast to the cramped room in which he leads his life, but the room is home too, personalized, lived in, a refuge even from the difficulties of daily life.

A work from Suchitra Gahlot’s three-part series, ‘Everything I Hated. Everything I Loved’.

Can home be a smell? Can it be a common building material like cement? Two artists use cement in their work. Vibha Galhotra uses it as a spackled, rough-hewn backdrop for some digital prints. The prints move from a pastoral scene, complete with grazing horse, to a blighted concrete landscape, the skeleton of an unfinished tower block. There is a sense here of an Edenic garden transformed, man’s substitution of a paradisiacal home for the ugliness of urban housing projects. Galhotra has another piece in the show too, a pretty hammock made of glass beads and wire emblazoned with a map of the world. Can the world be your home? Or does the hammock represent an escape from home, an escape from the mundane, an escape from the local into the global?

Homing, though the quality of the show is uneven, the ideas sometimes slight, provokes interesting questions. Home, surely, is not a physical place. We can hate the homes into which we are born. We can love the countries to which we immigrate but still feel a pang for “home". We can construct our ideal homes, whether actual houses or dreams. Home, then, is an idea. We, each of us, make our own homes—in our imaginations.

Homing is on till 18 March from 11am-7pm (Sundays closed) at Art Positive, F-213/B, Old MB Road, Lado Sarai. For details, call 41602545.

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