What’s cooking: Empty pots & pans drip food for thought

Step inside the foyer in front of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art, Saket, and you can't help but be taken aback by what you see. It's difficult to tear your eyes away, as you struggle to comprehend it, and can't help but feel dwarfed in its presence. It's a 36 feet by 36 feet installation, weighing 20 tonnes, and made using stainless steel kitchen utensils - it's artist Subodh Gupta's monumental Line of Control, installed in India for the first time.

Avid art collector Kiran Nadar first saw the piece in London at the Tate Triennial 2009 at Tate Britain, and she says it immediately overwhelmed her. "At the centre of a grandiose building was this modern, cutting-edge work of art that created a huge stir among the people then," she says. The indelible impact the piece had on her made her acquire it for her personal collection, which she displays at her museum at DLF South Court Mall. The piece - too big to fit inside the actual museum - is placed just outside, and spans almost the entire height and width of the area.

The imposing mushroom-shaped cloud form of the installation represents the paradox in Indian reality, says Gupta, who first conceptualized the piece in 2005 but began working on it only in 2006. "I am very fascinated by these bright utensils. They are shiny, but the emptiness of utensils shows no food. Similarly, one aspect of India may be shining, but other may not," he says. But the piece has many different layers that bring it together, he adds. Nadar says it represents the nuclear cloud after Hiroshima, and symbolizes the carnage that can occur.

Bringing the installation here from London was a Herculean task and it took months of preparation. The floor had to be reinforced from the basement to be able to withstand the weight of the piece, and it took the crew seven long days to complete the actual installation. "We received the shipment from UK in four containers, and the process of bringing it to Delhi from the port took months. We had three cranes inside the mall to install the piece. The crew members, who also installed the piece in London, first set up the support structure, and then fixed on to it the 14 or 15 different parts of the installation," says Nadar.

A strong believer that art needs to be accessible to everybody, Nadar says she hopes people are intrigued to look at the piece carefully and react to it positively. But love it or hate it, it's a piece that is impossible to ignore. "Maybe we get more footfall at the museum with this work as well," she says. Roobina Karode, director, KNMA, says that in installations like this, public participation adds to the experience of the artwork, "When people circumambulate, or look up at it, they become participants and not just spectators." She says she plans to collect public response to the piece, to gauge how different people react to it.

Sunday, April 22, 2012