A Collection Of Photomontages Makes An Attempt To Seize The Cultural Transformation Of Karnataka’s Capital
A senior colleague and I began speaking about Bangalore on our solution to seize lunch on a workday two years in the past, when going to the workplace and eating places have been quotidian affairs. The colleague, who was born and introduced up within the metropolis, instructed me, who had been residing there for 4 years, how issues was. She used to cycle, with out visitors congestion, to Rex Theatre on Brigade Road, to Cubbon Park, to submit places of work, markets and different locations. The metropolis, she recalled, was a lot cooler, calmer, and greener. Six years into this millennium, Bangalore grew to become Bengaluru. Along with the title, town too modified drastically. At this level, the colleague paused for a second and mentioned, “It doesn’t feel like my city anymore.”
Viewing Shanthamani M’s on-line exhibition on the Museum of Art and Photography, Past Continuous, rekindled the reminiscence of this dialog. Her photomontages from the mid-2000s try and painting Bangalore’s transmogrification. Like my colleague, Shanthamani, too, has fond reminiscences of a cooler, greener metropolis. Despite rising up in Mysore, she has continually visited Bangalore from the 80s. “I used to come to see exhibitions in Bangalore. This was the only place (near Mysore) where I could see works of other artists,” she says, “It was still a pub city and you would find people playing music on Brigade Road. But it had a different kind of balance and charm.”
Shanthamani’s work, nevertheless, isn’t a mere nostalgic journey. It was, quite, a challenge to seize a metropolis in flux. By the mid-2000s, new buildings cropped up, roads expanded, timber fell, summers acquired hotter. All this was taking place at a frantic tempo. “It was generally the time when the density of the software community increased. And, the city geared up to cater to that community,” she says, “It changed the way the city worked. I could see and feel that.”
It wasn’t that change itself or the tempo of change that involved Shanthamani; it was, she says, the type of change town opted for. “It had very much to do with the commercial parameters. A lot of the cultural identity of the city sort of got erased. For instance, people had to work even on important festivals in the city. They worked on American time, had American holidays; they even had to change their names and accents sometimes.”
Mary In A Sari
One of the montages options a picture of a roadside Christian shrine topped by a cross rising from a lotus. The shrine has a small Mary statue draped in a sari. The confluence of cultures and faiths on this nearly unknown shrine in a settlement in Ejipura piqued Shanthamani’s curiosity. It reminded her of the fusion of the symbols aum (Hindu), crescent (Islam) and cross (Christian) painted in lots of auto-rickshaws she has seen in Karnataka and elsewhere.
“These things show that common people of different faiths don’t have hatred for each other. They are okay coexisting,” she says.
The montages, nevertheless, are summary. The accompanying write-ups, too, don’t fully reveal the artist’s intentions. But Shanthamani feels it’s okay even when the viewers does not get it. “Every montage has a kind of sub-story. Even if the watcher doesn’t get the full extent of these stories, they can certainly identify with certain elements. I kept it open-ended for new interpretations, narrations and understanding.”