Signs taken for Wonders: Lavanya Mani
At the beginning of the 21st century, and on the brink of an ecological catastrophe of global proportions, we appear to be on the threshold of a periodical rediscovering of the sense of wonder that the world appears to have lost. It is too early to speculate whether the return to the handmade, crafts, and other kinds of sustainable living are a fashion, or is born of the pressing exigencies of the time. The works in this show, much like the cabinet of curiosities, draws inspiration from a variety of pre-modern visual sources ranging from Persian and German books of wonder to Mughal miniatures, to the iconographical configurations of the chintzes that were so prized at a time; they straddle myth, science, natural history, traditional craft as well as art and history to draw attention to the complex systemic dynamics and interconnections that comprise a living planet. The show also reflects on contemporary concerns about the fragility of the ecological situation that we have before us today; it could therefore also be read as a cautionary tale about this state of affairs.
As Donna Haraway says, Earth/Gaia is both maker and destroyer; it is neither a resource to be exploited nor a ward to be protected or a nursing mother promising nourishment. Earth/terra is made up of ongoing multispecies stories and practices of becoming. In spite of the callous disregard with which it has been treated, earth processes, with their disquieting abstract power continue to reign supreme and it many ways could be a sign of things to come.