Erasure | Curated by Susanta Mandal: D-53 Defence Colony, New Delhi

2 March - 2 April 2021

Erasure, curated by artist Susanta Mandal, initiates an exchange of ideas around the thematics of the creative process through an exhibition format, inviting artists Anju Dodiya, Atul Dodiya, Sudhir Patwardhan, Gulammohammed Sheikh, Dayanita Singh, Gieve Patel, Ayisha Abraham, Mithu Sen and Ranbir Kaleka, along with himself, to weigh in on their artistic sources and cognitive triggers.

This exhibition is an exercise in drawing analogies between two kinds of erasure: one that looks at the discipline of history as an ideological tool, which selectively structures the past and re-writes it at will, and the other, more clinical and pathological process of dementia, where the memory of the affected individual is tragically wiped out. Take Clive Wearing, a British musician and composer whose short-term memory was reduced to under 27 seconds owing to an illness; in one repeated postulation in his diary entries, he writes the line ‘now I am’ followed by crossed-out text repeatedly so much so that time loses its meaning; the present becomes unhinged and floats without context. Take also the move to rename a railway station in Uttar Pradesh from Mughal Sarai Junction to Deen Dayal Upadhyay Station as a political gesture that not only erases identity by way of re-naming but also strips away the long colonial history of the station from the mid-nineteenth century. It’s imperative to note that these acts of erasure or forgetting employ similar cognitive models to those of remembering, both constructed through careful voluntary and/or involuntary orchestrations. In social and mass media, identities are finely erased and intolerances are layered as per old discriminatory practices on the basis of colour, caste, religion, gender and sexuality. Actions of erasure are not only effected in the original strokes of creation but also in the revising and remembering of past acts, as is the case with an unstable mental prowess that attempts to re-construct its reality or a political maneuver to re-visualize identity, place and history while keeping certain objectives in focus. Moreover, historical erasure through the removal of traces has often been wielded as a tool for controlling the masses, by blurring collective memories and creating numbness thus resulting in a failure to recall our most vivid losses.