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Bablee vs The Matrix
This unbearable heat has made my brain glitch a few times. April, May and June have been the longest, most productive and most boring months for me as I have spent more time staying indoors, wilting.
Over the weekend, out of sheer boredom, I watched The Matrix Resurrections while gluing my cut outs. As I fixed my sassy East African cranes from an 18th century painting to cardboard, I was thinking about how I am literally taking key sensorial elements from these Rajput and Mughal paintings out of…OMG! The Matrix!
Flight from Udaipur to Kota
Look at these same birdies I found in a much earlier painting stuck in the pixelated matrix-hell. The painting above is dated c.1740, this one is c.1660. I guess exotic foreign pets have always been a thing but I had some fun haphazardly identifying plants:
The Met Museum: Rao Jagat Singh of Kota at ease in a garden, attributed to Hada Master, ca. 1660. Kota, Rajasthan. Opaque watercolor and ink on paper; Dimensions: Image: 10 5/8 x 6 15/16 in. (27 x 17.7 cm); Credit Line: Lent by Private Collection. Accession Number: SL.17.2011.36.3
Red Pill or Blue Pill?
I have always lacked “nuance”, or so I keep hearing from my detractors. During my MA with the Sotheby’s Institute of Art (2008-09), I felt I was not a competent thinker because I struggled to write my essays in jargon laden, theory heavy, obfuscating language that precisely enables the author to have it both ways.
“Don’t upset powerful people.”
Some years back, a collector and a dealer agitated an entire (albeit small) geographic region in order to …this part was unclear but they promised to ruin me… based on some well known facts I mentioned while speaking on a panel at an art fair. According to them, my lone voice was enough to destabilise the value of their artist on the art market.
The lessons I took from this incident:
They perceived me as powerful. Apparently, I could sway the public simply by calling a spade a spade— as I had no career, there was no way to punish me.
Living in an obscure city in India where no one can reach me beyond sending me threatening emails, has its advantages.
I was never going to be rewarded by the Matrix any way, so I could exit without worrying about my “reputation”.
Storm in a teacup:
In my early days, following the global financial crisis where jobs in the culture sector were impossible to secure any way, I wrote critiques with such bluntness, that by 2016, an artist friend actually informed me that I was long considered “persona non grata”. I understood the use of this term in political circles, but what did this mean in the arts-sphere? They explained that everyone in the region was warned not to engage with me, I was not to be spoken to, my messages were not to be responded to and I was to remain shut out of opportunities. Essentially, in an era before the term came into being, I was cancelled.
Funnily, I could not have noticed that a punishment was being actively meted out at the time. I never had what it took to amount to anything in the art eco-system so I was written off very early: first during my student days in London as an art student (1999-2002), second as an MA student at Sotheby’s (2008-09).
I was expected by all to disappear however, my lack of awareness of what people thought of me, as well as what I recognise today as my ADHD obtuseness and hyper-focus were advantageous. I have felt many things but I have never felt deterred as I always found goodwill and support.
The Red Pill it is.
“Lalwani is correct”
Are We Asking Too Much of Public Art? —We want public art to interrogate social injustices, fill us with love and joy, and brush aside human flaws, but it rarely ever lives up to these expectations. Seph Rodney for Hyperallergic, May 25, 2023
I cherry picked this quote obviously but my one-time editor and poet Seph Rodney wrote a thoughtful piece last month on public art sculptures and their value for the public. Seph generously took into consideration my opinion on the hollowness of Shahzia Sikander’s “first female” symbolism. I am a stubborn believer in the capacity of art to shift mountains— as long as it is not held ransom by Gatekeepers. Just look at the inspiring work of artist Nan Goldin. She took on the Sackler family, an actual murderous billionaire drug cartel that funds blue-pilled museums, and brought them down through performance interventions in public museum-spaces within two years. While not one Sackler family member faces criminal charges in the legal world, Nan robbed them of the very thing they valued the most— their sanitised art-laundered Reputation. Nan cancelled the Sacklers for ever.
Sharpen your knives:
Isabelle Imbert, a Manchester based academic, invited me and my Nicolas to discuss our individual creative practices (gardening and perfumering) and combined curatorial vision in Bagh-e Hind on her podcast the Art Informant. We had a very frank discussion on the erasure of (art) history and how corrupt academia has always been— I have neither patience nor nuance on such matters.
Very Prolific, Very Bored, Very Hot Summer
I made a few hand painted labels so a client could reuse her mini perfume bottles. Each one indicates the perfume within. Left to right: Lotus Pond, Kakinada Red Roses, and the peacock for “Bagh e Hind” as a perfume cologne. I also hand-stitched a rather over-engineered silk pouch for a set of seven perfumes.
But the best part was making this “Banana Leaf” perfume based on a Playset I am still working on. Here I take banana trees from art history and the ones growing in Nicolas’ garden and present them as painted pop ups together. Now which is which?
These pop ups have unexpectedly become such great visual aids to think-play with. The process of pairing them with different botanical details from different paintings has expanded the edges of possibilities outside the Matrix. The only way to “have” these paintings is by wearing the perfume. As usual, hit reply to ask about anything.
"Smile Please" 📸
Enjoy this family photo of all the historical and real banana trees together :)