ATUL BHALLA | AUSCULTATION: False Clouds and Real Deluges – I: D-53 Defence Colony, New Delhi

2 November - 1 December 2023
Motivated by the search for social and environmental inquiries through an oeuvre that incorporates sculpture, painting, installation, video, photography and performance, Atul Bhalla has for decades explored the physical, historical and political significance of materials and materiality in urban-impact environments. His practice explores the shifting dynamics of landscapes due to various contextual and cultural factors, leading to examinations of mainstream systems that perpetuate imbalances and extremities not only in how the Earth’s climatic conditions have been adversely altered and affected but also how, among humans, the politics of resources has skewed access and ownership across communities. Bhalla asks of his audience urgent questions that feel as poetic as they do political: What is our relationship to land? What does water mean to us? Who does a tree belong to? Such a biopolitical approach to understanding land and water fosters a unique approach to materiality in his process, creating situations of experience in a manner encompassed by the art historical term of “relational aesthetics”, or participatory art that concerns all of human life and its shared contexts. In this way, Bhalla’s investigations of natural elements and occurrences are both scenic and sardonic in nature; as he juxtaposes the seeming self-sufficiency of nature against our own vulnerability, he lulls us in the momentary silence before an inevitable storm that has been, perhaps, a millennia in the making.
In this much-awaited solo exhibition titled Auscultation: False Clouds and Real Deluges – I, Bhalla brings us a suite of works partly developed over a year-long expedition along the 28 North Parallel, commissioned by the KHOJ International Artists’ Association and the World Weather Network, supported by the British Council’s Creative Commissions for Climate Action, a global programme exploring climate change through art, science and digital technology – in addition to ongoing projects that cement his oeuvre in the performance of contexts by which human impact on environment, culture and society can be realized. The 28th North Parallel is a latitude that runs across a host of geographical regions and climatic conditions, including Mount Everest and the North Indian Himalayas; Rajasthan; and the Sindh Desert in Pakistan. In an effort to foreground climate change through his practice, Bhalla turned to conjoining images, material and imaginings along the course of these coordinates, particularly where human presence was palpable, as diaristic documents of the weather’s history so as to make propositions about the alarming changes in climate conditions. The show attempts to explore a diagnosis of the world’s now unpredictable extreme weather patterns through a sampling of its meteorology, offering prophetic meditations on an inundated future.