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Epigraphica Indica: Showcasing the power of the written word


‘Epigraphica Indica,’ a solo present by Pushpamala N, is at present underway at Gallery Sumukha in Bengaluru

‘Epigraphica Indica,’ a solo present by Pushpamala N, is at present underway at Gallery Sumukha in Bengaluru

In ‘Epigraphica Indica,’ Bengaluru-based artist Pushpamala N shows how the written word wields its power in on a regular basis life. Two units of reveals are half of the present — ‘Atlas of Rare and Lost Alphabets’ and ‘Nara’ (slogans).

“Epigraphy is the study and interpretation of ancient inscriptions on metal or stone. That is why the show is called Epigraphica Indica. I was always interested in documents, and various aspects of history have been ingrained in my work from the very beginning,” says Pushpamala, who has repeatedly used Nineteenth-century ideas of ethnography, anthropology and archiving, in her earlier works.

An exhibit from artist Pushpamala N’s solo show ‘Epigraphica Indica’

An exhibit from artist Pushpamala N’s solo present ‘Epigraphica Indica’
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The ‘Atlas of Rare and Lost Alphabets’ are a set of 100 copperplate sculptures impressed by the artist’s go to to an archaeological museum in Bengaluru. Pushpamala says ‘Atlas’, like so much of her different works, was impressed by Walter Benjamin’s Arcade Project, one of her favorite books. “He looked at the present as a ruin and examined it like an archaeologist.”

In historic India, essential paperwork corresponding to land deeds and official edicts had been etched on copperplates and had been known as tamra shasanas (copper edicts). Pushpamala determined to recreate them utilizing the approach of etching and over three years from 2015 to 18, inscribed copperplates with varied scripts of the Indian sub-continent by hand. She labored with completely different chemical substances to create a patina and because of this, every plate appears as if it was unearthed at a historic website.

“Though the process of writing and drawing was tedious, I enjoyed it as it was very different from my usual rhythm of working with photographs, videos and live performances,” she says.

An exhibit from artist Pushpamala N’s solo show ‘Epigraphica Indica’

An exhibit from artist Pushpamala N’s solo present ‘Epigraphica Indica’
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

While researching for this venture, Pushpamala came upon there was a worldwide motion devoted to preserving and documenting scripts that had been disappearing. “There were older forms of Kannada and Tamil; Tulu — always thought to be an oral language — once had a written script which fell into disuse during colonial times. Assamese too had a script, but now uses Bengali. At the same time, people are also working to create scripts such as Kodava. The Phags-pa alphabet created by a Chinese monk during the Yuan dynasty was written from top to bottom. It had the appearance of Indian letters, but never really took off and only a few examples of the script remain,” she says.

Pushpamala elaborates that the subcontinent — India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Tibet, Afghanistan — is residence to lots of of scripts. “I doubt there is such diversity elsewhere,” she says, including, “There is also a political side to this issue as communities which only have an oral language feel deprived of identity, prestige and a recorded history of their being. Though their literature might use some other script, they feel the need for a specific script of their own.”

Artist Pushpamala N and exhibits from her solo show ‘Epigraphica Indica’

Artist Pushpamala N and reveals from her solo present ‘Epigraphica Indica’
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

True to kind, some of the reveals include completely different scripts very like circulars of yore which might carry the identical message in each official and regional languages, for the profit of all residents.

Nara, the second part of the exhibition, is about ‘hidden transcripts’ — texts that emerge in social areas outlined by dominance and oppression. “Hidden transcript is an anthropological term for how people resist authority or power through their own ways of communication. As an artist, I wanted to highlight recent protests in my own way.”

Pushpamala says she got here throughout compelling slogans at a poster-making workshop she had organised in 2020. “I wanted to memorialise them and give them a permanent form. Just like metal was used to record important documents in ancient times, the Nara exhibits are also records of the present times. I used the same technique to incise words and drawings. Protest posters are usually not well designed, while protest poetry and slogans are ephemeral; they tend to get forgotten.”

An exhibit from artist Pushpamala N’s solo show ‘Epigraphica Indica’

An exhibit from artist Pushpamala N’s solo present ‘Epigraphica Indica’
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The 50 reveals on this part appear to be chalk-and-slate shows however are literally copper plates handled with patinas. Their content material ranges from sketches and poetry to compact, hard-hitting phrases in English, Hindi and different regional languages.

According to Pushpamala, each units of works share similarities. “Both are like tamara shasanas in their own way. One is a historical record — history is unearthed by looking at archaeological domains and deciphering them, while the Nara works are a record of contemporary history, of what is going on right now.”

‘Epigraphica Indica’ can be on show at Gallery Sumukha, Bengaluru until April 16, 2022



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