The multi-media installation, “Interior Landscape,” dwells upon the eco-poetics of place. Sculptures by Ashwini Bhat reference the Shiva lingam as Ardhanarishwara (an androgynous form of Shiva and Parvati that merges male and female forces of creativity). The lingams are deployed in a long curve that suggests the approach, in a South Indian temple, toward a central shrine. In this case, the central shrine is a larger lingam, set on a rotating pedestal that serves as a paleo-acoustical instrument. Its body (perhaps incised with a sharpened stick by its maker) is “read” by a laser in the manner of a record, releasing the ambient sounds—a dog barking, a man (Bhat’s father) singing, local crows—embedded in the wet clay at the moment when the lingam was shaped and scored.
The poems by Forrest Gander are inspired by Sangam literature, a formal poetry developed in South India between 300 BC and 300 AD in which personal emotions are expressed in relation to particular landscapes—forest, mountains, desert, etc. The two dimensional drawings made from charcoal, watercolor, powdered raw and fired clay record Bhat’s visual responses to Gander’s poems. The large photographs by Bhat are of the shore temple of Mahabalipuram.
The video, filmed and produced by Gander, brings together most of the influences for the exhibition which is designed as an immersive sacral experience that invites viewers to cross borders of time, culture, and geography via the most intimate of gestures: the poetic word, a landscape, the touch of a finger in clay, prayer, meditation, and the shifting rhythmic pulse between them.
In a time of critical environmental degradation, this installation calls our attention to the way human life is embedded in place and time and to the interrelation of those mutual realms that have been misguidedly labeled human and nature.